June 20, 2012
In which I write about bad shit and other related topics
Ever notice how all pain is hot?  Even as we freeze we call it a burn.  One might say I like to discuss pain, even that I am obsessed with the subject, but that's a falsehood (see how I avoid name-calling) -- its the pain itself that wishes to blabber on about itself, a regular gossipy old woman, or if you think that's sexist ( I do not but feel free to do so) a tabloid journalist who just can't help writing about dirty little scandals of no particular interest other than they have to do with the sexual peccadilloes of people, people of interest for whatever reason to other people, people who have their faces flashed across our televisions and computer screens for reasons that have nothing to with anything but scurrilous entertainment to distract the rest of us from - well from our misery.  Schadenfreude, the guiltiest and most joyful of vices.
So, it's the hip, the left hip (just that one for over 15 years now - Why?)  that's doing the spechifying at this moment.  I'm just the messenger.  This is one of those slow burns where the temperature slowly rises until finally you find yourself incapable of ignoring it.  It's not the stick your hand over a burning candle or your hand on the stove by accident - nothing so, well ... so acute as that.  You mind acute pain because it hurts immediately, but these little aches that turn into inflammatory flashes up and down my leg and lower back (just sitting down, mind you) they sneak up on you.  It's a deceitful type of suffering; it ebbs and flows, wanes and waxes, sharp one second, dull the next.  In short it throbs, but without any discernible rhythm.  It's a "fookin bastad" as the Irish might say.
So what do you do?  You distract yourself, that's what you do.  You become that damn journalist searching out a story that captivates people, enslaves their minds, becomes that obscure object of their desires.  You watch movies, pop pills, smoke a joint (if only I could!).  I just happen to write shit.  It offers me relief as good as any other palliative available, and its better for me than other alternatives.  I'd love to paint or play the piano, or run until I dropped, but those are beyond me -- some were never attainable and others, well, time creates more wounds than it heals.  Personally I look for beautiful phrases, and try to discover an elegance in the design of arranging them into thoughts, images, narratives, et cetera.  Remember the little plastic chimps you hung together by their arms as a child, trying to make a long string of them that you could dangle from the highest thing you could stand on - a chair, Papa's desk, the washing machine?  I do. Wasn't it fun to watch them swing around before they fell this way and that, scattering themselves all over the freshly mopped kitchen floor.  Well, now I string my words together, dangling them out there, hoping they won't fall apart when I'm finished, but not really thinking about it during the construction process.
It's better than narcotics.  This internal sense of order, of clarity, arises in my head amid the exhilaration of creation.  The ecstatic element of creating a poem or a story, well, sure, maybe that is the most prominent emotion I feel, but the focus that accompanies it, the single-minded attention on making a new thing, even if you're not quite sure what that new thing will become, is right there with the hormones and neurotransmitters that bathe your brain.  I feel as if I'm in a waking dream. In short, it is the same the feeling good cocaine, as pure as pure can be, used to give me. 
Still reading?  Think I'm mad?  I am.  I don't deny the charge.  One has to be a bit mad to create, don't you think?  Especially when words are your tools and your raw materials, both.  You must use these funny little symbols, meaningless in themselves, to reach into another person's head and, as the old saying went, fuck with them.  Poets are prophets, oracles, mystics and batshit crazy people.  And writers who tell stories, long or short, aren't they a bit like sociopaths? They create their own worlds and play with the emotions of their readers.  The best of them are selling a product to which their customers become addicted.  And they are doing it because they love that process, love it more than life in may cases.  I have no doubt many of them, a they write, feel like gods.
And when you consider the matter carefully, the best of them write of pain, pain in all its many forms, shapes, sizes, categories.  We are an odd species, there is no doubt about it.  We love to experience vicarious violence, suffering, grief, anxiety, paranoia, insanity, et alia.  Love it.  Why are video games so popular?  Failure is a known feature of most games.  Yet people play and play, only growing tired of the game when they master it.  What other species would waste their time on such foolish endeavors?  What other species would deliberately seek out frustration and disappointment, anger and  -- yes -- sorrow over a mere game?  Dolphins leap and cavort alongside ships, their happiness in their existence so apparent, while we naked primates huddle in dark rooms to watch fictional characters suffer, kill each other, lose the girl, get hacked to bits and so on and so forth.  We are not majestic creatures.
So, let me return to that damn left hip.  The pain is searing me now.  I can hardly bear it.  If i wasn't putting these words down for you to read (and to be honest I'd put them down even if I knew for certain that I was my only audience) I would go and take what pain-killing medicines I am allowed to take and drink alcohol to numb the nervous system, and try to find some position on a couch or bed that alleviates even a little the suffering I am experiencing this moment.  Soon I will,  Creation of fictions, of poems, even of oddities such as this are not a panacea for suffering.  But without them what would I be?   Probably addicted to something worse.
I have no words for my despair.
I know quite well the world is cruel.
My agony, my friend, makes me aware
I must abide and I must dare
to sing mad songs, & play the fool.
I have no words for my despair --
I lie exposed to open air
& feel its breath -- hot, warm, cold, cool.
I find that agony makes me aware.
Pain scrapes me raw, & strips me bare.
It flays me. It's the perfect tool.
Can words place limits on despair?
Destroy! Destroy! -- we could go there
and drown ourselves, reject the rule
that agony teaches: to be aware
of the present.  In short, to care
about our lives as we would jewels.
I have no words for my despair?
I lied. My agony makes me aware.
Can't leave you without a villanelle, now can I.


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May 18. 2012
New poems are up!  Well, new since the last time I posted to this blog. Click on the Poems tab and go look.
Oh, and I have been les sick.  A tad less.  Lovely word "tad."  So rarely used these days. 
Today, I had a discussuion of the german word "Gesundheit" that all good Germans (well so much as I know based on my grandmother on my mother's side) say when someone sneezes. Yes, I'm a half-Kraut.  Isn't that fascinating?  The the things you learn about people, my goodness gracious!


My daughter is one-quarter German of which she is excessively proud.  Not as proud as being one-half Japanese, but still.  The rest is a mix of Eglish, Norman French, Welsh, Scotch-Irish and perhaps Viking, considering all those invasions of Britain so long ago.  I wonder if I have an ancestor in the Domesday Book?  It's possible ...


April 21, 2012
A few thoughts on Lisa Gordon's "The pressed grapes poem"


   How can we best understand a poet as complex as Lisa Gordon, a master of metaphor and riddles?  I choose to analyze, as best I can, one of her recent works, “The pressed grapes poem,” to explore the nature of her oeuvre.  Here, Lisa employs her classic stutter/stop rhythms in the way she breaks her lines, often on a preposition or conjunction.  This forces the reader to focus on each line before moving to the next.  Observe:


Indignant as I am at this moment
I’ve still room for a catch in the throat along with
walking in disarray, studying the lake,
starry homage, basic applause for
that which has left me indignant.
    Notice how she ends and begins her first stanza on the same word "indignant," which emphasizes her anger at that which she has spent the rest of those initial lines seeking a path to discount - i.e., "still room for a catch in the throat." "basic applause..." etc.  Yet what has led to her indignation, an indignation so imposing that she must mention it twice as the alpha and omega of the stanza?  Look carefully. 
    The word "disarray" is the clue.  Here she is walking along or observing, as she often does in her poems, a body of water -- the lake -- and the language she uses in proximity to that lake "starry homage" tells us it is not what she observes -- the natural world -- which has caused her indignation.  Rather, her ire comes from her internal state of mind, which may or may not have a pre-existing external cause.
    The next two stanzas offer us further clues as to the nature of her distress:


This is no accident, the slam-dunk way
you learn to acknowledge
the homily in the sinister,
love busting out regardless,
timely mining of the darkening probable
   She provides us, in her second stanza, with a vague outline of what has gone wrong, a "darkening probable, despite the mention of "love busting out regardless..."


As a matter of course we consider
what we want along side what
we don’t want – disarmingly lean into
hope, danger, a new day thirsting
in the dark – dreamscape, soundscape,
one hand clapping.
    In the third stanza, we begin to understand: this is an internal conflict, a battle against chaos and despair, an inherent sense of paranoia that looms over the poem, and even perhaps nihilism -- that "one hand clapping" that ends the stanza.  The reference to desire is the key -- "what we want alongside what we don’t want /...hope, danger..." -- which informs us that this is a struggle within the poet’s mind over the nature of her universe, the only universe any of us can hope to know, our mind.  We do not know yet what triggered this internal struggle, but in the last two stanzas, we see how she resolves the conflict in her now classic manner. Through the use of paradox and metaphor, she allows hope and love to emerge victorious, if only for a while.


Video gone viral, tempest
in a teapot, gutsiness – you
with your rippled Trojan horse
stand silent in the field feigning
innocence – you who’ve touched base
so many fraught times in a touchy interstice:
well yes we’re here together now
as mixed up as we are determinedly sure
it’s good dreams, not nightmares
that will eventually catch up to us
out here in the wind amongst lively songs
just steering, just because…
    The hinge where the reversal occurs actually comes late with these words in the last stanza (though it is foreshadowed in the penultimate one): "...we’re here together now/as mixed up as we are determinedly sure/it’s good dreams, not nightmares..."
    With those words, Lisa returns herself (and us) to the stated belief that "nightmares" do not rule her world.  She says in essence that a least that, with help, the shared "good dreams" (a phrase I take to mean her waking relationship with the unidentified, yet well-known companion, to whom her poetry is so often addressed) will overcome the horrors she envisions, at least until the next storm passes through.
    As always, she ends on a note of ambiguity, which for her defies the shifting perceptions of her reality: "just steering, just because."  I take this to mean that she chooses to believe in the safe harbor of love, friendship, and beauty, especially the beauty of nature (refer back to her first stanza) that is so often the anchor in her poems, even if she may not trust that they will always be there to act as a bulwark against her nightmares.



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April 20, 2012
My poem "All right" has been published at Outlaw Poetry at this link: 
Thanks to Herrr Klaus and to Pris Campbell for recommending I submit my work there.

April 12, 2012

Thoughts on the Man-Moth        
    So you've never heard of the Man Moth?  Neither had Elisabeth Bishop until she saw a misprint in the NY Times about an exhibition of "manmoth" fossils at the museum.  Obviously, someone had misspelled "mammoth" or the typesetter had made an error.  Yet, from that small error a marvelous poem was conceived by Ms. Bishop, perhaps her best known poem.  You can read it here:  




    It seems a fanciful poem at first blush, the terrified little man-moth scurrying up from underneath small openings in the streets of NY and scaling the skyscrapers in a vain attempt to reach the moon.  For, as the poem says:


                     Up the façades,
his shadow dragging like a photographer’s cloth behind him
he climbs fearfully, thinking that this time he will manage
to push his small head through that round clean opening
and be forced through, as from a tube, in black scrolls on the light.
(Man, standing below him, has no such illusions.)
But what the Man-Moth fears most he must do, although
he fails, of course, and falls back scared but quite unhurt.


    Yes, there is something slightly comical about a Man-Moth believing that the moon is a hole in the sky, and that he is obligated to investigate.  The Man-Moth's fear that this "hole" proves the sky cannot protect him (or us) is, in reality, a mistake: the sky is not a solid shield, and the moon is not an entryway into our world (or exit for that matter).  But then, the poem is not a story to be taken literally, is it.  The Man-Moth is poem as fable.  For are we not all the Man-Moth in some sense?


    So many people live in fear of things they do not understand.  So many live quiet, desperate lives, living "underground" as the Man-Moth does, knowing their mortality, much like the "the third rail, the unbroken draught of poison" that runs beside the underground trains he takes nightly.  The third rail that he dare not look upon for fear he will die.  Bishop even describes his fear as an "inherited" disease, and here she tells the truth, for death is inherited.  As the saying goes, "It's not a bug, it's a feature" of our lives.  Our bodies, like the many machines humanity has invented, have a limited useful life. Few people ever truly evade the fear of death once they learn of the condition.  Surely the Man-Moth never does.


    Even his many failed attempts to investigate moon, that circle of light in the sky, is based upon the fear it represents: the fear that there is no safe place, above or below.  Underground, he is well aware of the dangers he faces, but aboveground he had believed that the sky was a form of protection, just as so many today believe that someone sits in the heavens above, a person who guards us from harm, a person to whom we can appeal for mercy, a savior.  What is the Man-Moth then, but Bishop’s own critique on religion itself?  We who are outside the poem know that the Man-Moth's fears and superstitions regarding the Sky and the Moon are incorrect, yet we also have to admire his courage in the face of that fear.  He climbs the tall buildings, hoping against hope that he can find his salvation from the terror he travels with every night below, even as he doubts that what he sees above is beneficial or even benign. 


    And when he falls and fails each time he is unhurt, for the attempt to reach heaven does not kill a person, does it.  Hope, even when it fails does not kill us, yet neither does it relieve us of our fear of our own mortality.  We too share the Man-Moth's fears, and seek ways to alleviate them.  We too struggle with doubt in our lives, and constantly confront the reality that we are infinitesimally small and insignificant compared to the vastness of our own planet, much less the universe.  Yet he perseveres, nonetheless, though not without a measure of sorrow for his fate.  For as the last stanza makes clear, the only true possession the Man-Moth can call his own single tear, a tear that he will give you should you catch him.


                                                   ...Then from the lids
one tear, his only possession, like the bee’s sting, slips.
Slyly he palms it, and if you're not paying attention
he'll swallow it. However, if you watch, he'll hand it over,
cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.


       It is that single tear that reveal's Bishop's intent.  The only thing the Moth-Man can call his own is that single tear "like the bee's sting" as she says.  Yet, he will surender it, the sorrow and the pain it implies, should you ask for it, rather than swallow it and keep it to himself.  How many of us would not long to do the same if we could?  And is that not exactly what a savior does - takes away our pain and suffering in this world?  Is that not what death does?  What happens to the bee after it gives up it's sting?  That we know, but what happens to the Man-Moth when that terrified, lonely creature gives up his tear?  Bishop leaves that to our imagination, but one thing she does say.  That tear, the condensed symbol of all our fears and sorrows and pain, is cool and pure enough to drink.  Make of that what you will.

Thoughts on the Man-Moth

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April 10, 2012

The condition my condition is in 
  Here is how I recognize when I am having a flare of my illness.  It is called TRAPS, by the way, Tumor-necrosis-factor receptor associated periodic syndrome.  Often it starts with joint pain (knees, hip, ankles, back, elbows, damn near anywhere), but sometimes with a rash that breaks out on my left hand, the palm, and sometimes other places as well.  The rash is particularly bad is when it appears between my toes, or the back and top of my scalp, and I itch and itch until these little bumpy things bleed and crust over, but still they itch.  Strange nodules appear on my face -- quite ugly really -- though they don;t hurt or make me scratch them, thankfully.  I get chills and my abdomen may expand to the size of a basketball.  I have chills, and I become dizzy, light-headed and nauseous.  Pain in my lower right side (always in one particular place) can get so bad I can't sleep at night.  On occasion, my tongue becomes very painful, and sores appear along the edges.  They look like someone took a tiny ice cream scoop and dug out big pockets of my taste buds. 


    It gets worse after that if I let it.  I never do anymore.  I know the signs and so I take my corticosteroids to batter it away, until the next time (prednisone to be exact, which has its own issues, i.e., side effects, but I'll pass on describing those).  Spring and fall are the worst seasons.  Weather changes, pollen or other allergens and too much physical or emotional stress can trigger an -- let's call it an attack, shall we.  I'm feeling that way right now to be honest.  Shivering.  My face is covered in those bumbs I described, my left hip (always my left hip - the bursa joint) and my knees hurt and well, there you go.


    I wish this could be a cheerier post, something that would be uplifting or inspiring or at least tell a funny story, but what the heck, that's not my reality, and I am no good at faking it.


The condition my condition is in

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April (?), 2012

Oh yeah, I'm supposed to blog stuff
    Well, damn if I haven't been ignoring this blog thing for too long.  You know how it goes.  Daughter is sick, my son is lethargic, my jaw feels as if someone stomped on it and before you know it by god it's April!  Today we have absolutely no clouds whatsoever in a wonderful easter egg blue sky, unusual for the great lakes region, one of which is just about three miles north of my house. 


    Yesterday, I came out of my garage and surprised two mallard ducks, a couple, a mated pair, whatever, the male larger with that gorgeous green head and the female small and brown, and they broke from the space between my house and my neighbor's home, like you see on those shows where hunter shoot them from the sky.  Thye had no idea I wouldn't harm them, nor should they.  We humans, well, too many of us like to kill things for no good reason.  I wondered about them as they bolted, wonderd where they would go, would the water they drank be tainted with chemicals, would their eggs hatch and later a group of duckling cross my path, forcing all the cars to stop as they waddle across the road.  Funny, isn't it, how we respect little duckies, but hunters will shoot mom or dad from the sky, ave the carcass stuffed (wings spread wide of course).  The shotgun will insure that no one will eat the flesh of these creatures.  Too much trouble for most to gut out all that buckshot, pull out all the feathers, and so forth.


    I've posted some poems so if you want wander over there from my homepage or just go to tarabirch.webnode.com/poems/ and you can read them of you want. Or not.  Hey, I'm the no pressure type of salesperson, not that you have to pay with anything but time, which is admittedly more and more costly the older one gets.



Oh yeah, I'm supposed to blog stuff

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Biased opinion
I don't care who wins the GOP nomination.  Whoever he is, he will be a disaster if elected. 

Biased Opinion

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Prednisone and me


    I've been on prednisone for 4 days to deal with my auto-immune disorder.  There are better drugs out there to help me but my insurance won't pay for them  Prednisone is cheap, but it is a highly destructive and dangerous drug, a member of the family of corticosteroids.  It works by suppressing the immune system, much like a sledge hammer applied to your car's engine suppresses its ability to operate.  Just read this information regarding the dangers of prolonged use of prednisone:




I've been on this drug for over 20 years:  Here are some of the side effects I've incurred:
  • Sodium (salt) retention
  • Fluid retention
  • Weight gain/Obesity
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Puffiness or moon face
  • Growth of facial hair
  • Bruising easily
  • Thinning of skin
  • Poor wound healing
  • Rounding of upper back
  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Psychiatric issues (depression, mood swings, personality changes)
  • Many others not listed here, such as increased risk of liver disease, glacoma and cataracts, simply because I personally have not experienced them.
    I am also at increased risk of serious and possbly deadly infections, and osteoporosis (brittle bones due to loss of calcium).  Yet this is the preferred treatment (and often the mandated initial treatment) for millions of people who suffer from autoimmune symptoms in America.  Why?  Because the patent has run out on it and it can be made cheaply as a generic drug.  This is your health care system at work, America.


Topic: Prednisone


Rochelle | 04/11/2012

For years, I was treated with antibiotics, prednisone and cortisone. When I was 19 I was diagnosed, misdiagnosed with leukemia. You are right, steroids are not good for us. Yet, they had no cure for the things that attacked us. At 19, I was allergic to about everything and today, my smile is a tetracyline smile. Every year I'd get an infected throat and tetracycline was the only thing I could take. When pneumonia would get me, they began pumping shit into me from IVs. While I was grateful to breath, it wracked my system. Fibromyalgia was born. I was one of the first tier to ever be diagnosed with it. I sure feel for you, Tara. I'm sorry for what you are going through. I'm okay now. Sort of. Yes. I'm okay now. yes.

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Dithering is such a great word
    Ok, it's another Saturday while I dither away my time not writing my story.  It's strange, but my urge to write fiction goes in spurts, while writing poems comes like pouring a glass of water.  Why is that?  I started writing fiction in 2009 and completed a short story cycle manuscript with an overlying theme of the author being a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID (a/ka/ multiple personality disorder).  My book exceeds 160,000 words and has been through several drafts.  I submitted it to a few literary agents, but all of them rejected it, some via form letter and others with personal emails (which showed they had at least read my Query letter and whatever part of my manuscript their rules for submission allowed).  I've put that book on the back burner for now, and I am working on a novel, which combines elements of literary fiction, psychological drama, a murder mystery and ghosts.  We'll see where that goes
    In truth, I believe that I have a mild form of DID, which many psychiatrists and psychologists now believe is a spectrum disorder, i.e., it can be as severe as the woman in "Sybil" or much less severe, where people manifest various sub-identities that are aware of one another and actually cooperate to help the "individual" cope with his or her life.  When I write I am always writing as "Tara Birch" but that is not my real name. Yet when I try to write under that other identity, I cannot produce anything whatsoever, or to be truthful, I cannot write poetry and fiction.  My other identity can write political blog posts, and before I became disabled and was a practicing attorney, that identity had no difficulty writing trial motions, briefs, contracts, etc.  Poetry and fiction however, are Tara's domain.  Strange but true, or perhaps not that strange.
    Well, enough of wasting time.  I will try to go back to workibg on my short story, The Falls, now before I wander off on another tangent, e.g. my autoimmune disorder known as Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) Receptor-Associated Periodic Syndrome (TRAPS): www.orpha.net/consor/cgi-bin/OC_Exp.php?lng=EN&Expert=32960


Topic: Tara Birch, a so-called writer

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Topic: Tara Birch, a so-called writer

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