Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Empirically Yours


Emotional tautology
Symptom reflexology
Can’t prove with biology
Yet it’s undeniably

UNMe = Love

by Dennis Tkon

Saturday, January 27, 2007

You shouldn't know from such suffering!

This is my great-grandmother’s favorite story. She told it to me for the first time when I was eight. She was from Lithuania. Her English was well, she was ninety-seven and let’s say she was still working on it. Most of this had to be translated by my grandfather, as I just couldn’t understand her. She’d talk, he’d interpret, and I’d hold my nose, because between the two of them, their breath could gag a maggot off a meat wagon. She loved to talk about being poor as if it were her religion. She’d say things like, “Food? Who had food? Dirt is what we ate. And not even good dirt! My mother would feed us the dirt that was left on the ground! The dirt that wasn’t good enough for those more fortunate than us!” She’d say, “Money? What was money? Nobody had money. You made due with nothing! And if you couldn’t make due with nothing, well . . .” she’d say, her voice trailing off, “there was always something worse than nothing!”

I discovered later in life that having to make due without even the barest essentials, after a period of time causes a person to suffer from a condition called “Not-enough-ness.” And there’s no cure. No matter how much they may have in the future, it’s never enough. Everything in that person’s life is touched by not enough. Their existence seems to focus on what they don’t have, what they need, and what they went without. My great-grandmother, after she came to the United States, married a butcher. They made a nice living and could afford nice things. My great-grandmother died with a substantial sum in her savings account. But she lived her life always tortured by the memory of the time when there wasn’t enough. In her mind she never stopped being poor. She wore it like a medal. And because of that, she liked to tell this story.

Once upon a time, in a little town near Vilnius (in Lithuania) many many years ago, things were not so good. Europe was embroiled in the sufferings of World War I and even without the war, things were never so good there in the first place. After all, most people made a living out of suffering. That’s what you did. You got up. You suffered all day long and then you went to bed. Occasionally, you’d take a weekend off. But only rarely. Suffering was a full time job. Hey! At least it was honest work!

Anyway, things were bad. No work. No food. No money. Thank God suffering was free, or I don’t know what we would have done! So, even though there was no food and no money for food, we still went to the market every day. Why? Because. What were we supposed to do? Give up our routine too? You go to the market because that’s what you do! Life goes on, right? Of course right! So all along the way to the market you’d see your friends and neighbors, all out doing the same thing you were doing – looking for food, trying to stay alive, and trying not to look too miserable in the process. After all, you didn’t want everyone to know your business. And your suffering, of course, was nobody’s business!

Kukelkah. He was the butcher. Do you remember Kukelkah? Of course you don’t remember him. How could you? He’s been dead fifty years and you’re only eight years old-god-love-you! (At this point, my great grandmother would start crying, I think because I was eight. She’d hold up six fingers and yell, “EIGHT!” That word I could always understand and didn’t need Pop’s help with that one. Then the story would continue). So Kukelkah. The butcher. I’d walk to his store every day. Why? Well he never had anything in there to sell, but he was handsome. And who knows? Perhaps this would be the day that his shelves would be full, god willing. And if not, well, to say hello to such a man was not a waste of time. Besides it was something to do.

So sad. His store. Empty! Every day I’d go in. Bare shelves. Not a scrap of food anywhere. Why even open the store I’d wonder! Why? For the customers that’s why. He knew they’d come in each day and to be closed was not good for business. So every day – early – he’d get up and open the store. His apron never had blood on it. It was white! Clean. Ironed flat. Every day like that it was. Sweeping, sweeping, sweeping. He was always sweeping the floors, the porch, the back room. Why? What else was there to do? His floors were spotless like his apron! So trim he was. Who ever heard of a skinny butcher? Kukelkah was thin. I mean how fat can you get eating dirt after all? Feh!

I’d open the door to his butcher shop and go in with my empty shopping bags. And there he’d be. Sweeping, sweeping, sweeping. So hard he worked at nothing, eh? Well, at least the store would be ready and clean for when the meat returned from wherever it had gone. His shelves were all empty. Nothing! The meat counter was empty. The meat hooks sparkled and gleamed with their sharp points stuck into nothing! They hung there empty. Oh. I remember back when Kukelkah wasn’t so thin and his shelves weren’t so bare. No. The line used to go out the door and around the block! People waiting and waiting. We were still hungry then, but at least we weren’t starving. We didn’t have to eat dirt to fill our stomachs.

Good morning Kukelkah! I’d say to him. How are you today I’d ask. He’d tilt his head to one side and say, “Mmmmm, you know. Why even ask?” So? I’d say to him, waiting for an answer. He never had much to say. So Kukelkah, I’d say, No milk today? He’d stare at me and slowly look around his store at nothing. Everywhere was nothing! He’d stop sweeping and rest on his broom and pause. Lena, he’d say, gesturing with a wave of his hand, here is only no meat. You have to go next door for no milk. And of course, I’d laugh and say Oh Kukelkah! I forgot! But thank you for always being so helpful!

And then of course I’d make my way back home with no meat and no milk, but at least I’d come home with a good story!

I always wished my great grandmother’s story was longer, because after she would finish, she’d make me come sit next to her and she’d kiss me kiss me kiss me. She did everything three times. I think she was superstitious or something. And between each kiss she’d announce to nobody, “Love it! Love it! Love it!” Sour. Her kisses were foul, but she loved me so much. I could smell her on me during the entire hour and a half ride home. It’s funny the things we remember and even funnier how memories linger.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Poetry Thursday: ________________

Sorry Folks!

But I'm



This Week!
I have continuing education clases and can't come out to play. I'll try to get around this week and visit! Take care!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Redux

I thought this week's Poetry Thursday challenge was an awesome idea by Dana and Liz – thanks ladies! I’m sure I’m not the only one who is going to attempt to do this, but I couldn't resist and I hope this doesn't bore you. I basically collected a bunch of lines from the first forty or so posted and just let them run. They are actually in the order in which they were posted. I didn’t use every post, but of those used, they are in the exact order in which they were posted on Poetry Thursday.(Check if you doubt!) I found that together, the lines had a poetry all their own. Perhaps because each line was the progeny of everyone’s wonderful work, each had what it takes to stand together. Then again, maybe I’m crazy. I threw in some connectors and modifiers and changed a couple of “he”s to “she”s to maintain agreement, and tried to leave them untouched as much as possible. Here’s what they created when put together. I think this is a wonderful jambalaya of poetry. I’d expect to see several variations on this idea – it was just too tempting and I’m sure I’ll be in good company. All of your posts were amazing and I’m sorry if I didn’t use yours here. All were considered as of Tuesday afternoon when I wrote this.

I have to give a special thanks to Poet With A Day Job for posting the last line of this poem!!! Thank God for you girl! As for the rest of you, THANK YOU and see if you can spot your line!


And here in her land of dark she dies, dies, dies,
when the mean reds get meaner
She wants you to know her secrets
each, resting in a clean white bowl
They cut the same, you know
and are as real as any other death

Dreaming shadows into being
as if in a glass we poured our love
And though forgotten by gravity
other bodies tumble and fall over us
Heal around the edges of the wound
which you stab with your pen

One size is sad, she said
scouring paths of escape
She sways on the tide of the breeze
though they never told her not to go there
I am not innocent

Each of us floating to our deaths
look west to the men of stone
There is certain holiness in repetition
And thoughts of you keep sleep away
while the whole city leans back
And I can’t find God anywhere that I’m not

(I wish I could take credit for this!!) Dennis - 2007

Friday, January 12, 2007

Book Review: My Sister’s Keeper – By Jodi Picoult

This may just be the best book I’ve ever read. If not the best, then certainly one of the top five. I read it last fall and haven’t stopped talking about it. I got my wife, and both daughters to read it. My little one (she’s 11) is still mad at me because it made her cry so hard. I gave it to both my mom and my sister-in-law for Christmas. Can you say “gut wrenching?” “Compelling?” Did I mention gut wrenching? This is actually one of those books that stays with you. Long after you’ve put it on back on the shelf, you find that it follows you in the car to work. It accompanies you in the shower. And everything you see reminds you. I timed it. I was heavy with this book for three full days after I read it. How many books have you ever read that stayed with you like that?

13-year-old Anna was conceived by her parents as a source of spare parts for her dying older sister, Kate. By 13, Anna has had enough and sues for medical emancipation. However, Kate needs Anna’s kidney or she’ll die. We watch her family and her life spin out of control as we continue to watch Kate fighting the cancer that is killing her and her family. The story is written in the first person, but from the perspective of each of its characters. Picoult allows each character to take turns telling this amazing tale. Beautifully written. Don’t forget the Kleenex. Here’s a little sample.

Just then, Anna enters the kitchen. She throws herself into her chair and ducks her head. "Where have you been?" Kate says.
"Around." Anna looks down at her plate, but makes no effort to serve herself."
This is not Anna. I am used to struggling with Jesse, to lightening Kate's load; but Anna is our family's constant. Anna comes in with a smile. Anna tells us about the robin she found with a broken wing and a blush on its cheek; or about the mother she saw at Wal-Mart with not one but two sets of twins. Anna gives us a backbeat, and seeing her sitting there unresponsive makes me realize that silence has a sound.

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about this New York Times best seller. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

From Publishers Weekly The difficult choices a family must make when a child is diagnosed with a serious disease are explored with pathos and understanding in this 11th novel by Picoult (Second Glance, etc.). The author, who has taken on such controversial subjects as euthanasia (Mercy), teen suicide (The Pact) and sterilization laws (Second Glance), turns her gaze on genetic planning, the prospect of creating babies for health purposes and the ethical and moral fallout that results. Kate Fitzgerald has a rare form of leukemia. Her sister, Anna, was conceived to provide a donor match for procedures that become increasingly invasive. At 13, Anna hires a lawyer so that she can sue her parents for the right to make her own decisions about how her body is used when a kidney transplant is planned. Meanwhile, Jesse, the neglected oldest child of the family, is out setting fires, which his firefighter father, Brian, inevitably puts out.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Poetry Thursday: If God

I wrote this last November and until now, I've kept it buried under something heavy. It’s the only poem I ever wrote that scares me. It’s about a dream I had not long ago. Obviously, it involves my “becoming.” But I feel the dream is asking too much of me – and I’m not ready. And because I know way down deep that I can’t derail what I’ve started, I’m scared. It feels good to say that. I’m scared. I’m scared of discarding my life as I know it and pursuing another reality – one which I’m compelled to follow. I wouldn’t trade my progress for anything and have no desire to return to the way things were before I discovered the “secrets.” I have no anger or hatred around this – no sadness. Just fear. Maybe terror is closer to the truth. And I’m just not ready.

If God

What would you do
If God came to you
And invited you to cry
All of your tears into a cup

And promised you that
The depth of your tears
Would serve as the
Measure of your soul

Would you know
How to start

And what if God
Showed you that
Love and forgiveness
Were the only two
Words you ever needed
That suddenly life
Was easy

Would you know
What to do

And if God came
And lifted you
And showed you
All that was good
And separated real
From illusion

Would you know
How to see

And if God told you
In your dreams
That now was the time
When life’s moment
Was cued for digging
Around in the garden

Would you know
Where to dig
Would you

Would you take up
A spade and press
Sharp steel into the
Firmness that has
Become your life

Pressing until the
Hardness yields to
Something softer
The secret underbelly
You shield at
All cost

What if God asked
You to push your
Entire life over the
Edge of a cliff
Saving nothing of it
But yourself

Would you cry out
Begging for another way
And plead fear
As your defense

Or would you
Simply go mad
Like me, like me
And wish to sleep
Like the dead
And not dream

by dennis tkon Copyright 2007

Monday, January 08, 2007

Book Review: The History of Love, By Nicole Krauss

It was hard to see the last page through the tears. But isn’t that why I wanted to read this book in the first place?

I loved this story. Here’s what has to say about it:

Nicole Krauss's The History of Love is a hauntingly beautiful novel about two characters whose lives are woven together in such complex ways that even after the last page is turned, the reader is left to wonder what really happened. In the hands of a less gifted writer, unraveling this tangled web could easily give way to complete chaos. However, under Krauss's watchful eye, these twists and turns only strengthen the impact of this enchanting book.

The History of Love spans of period of over 60 years and takes readers from Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe to present day Brighton Beach. At the center of each main character's psyche is the issue of loneliness, and the need to fill a void left empty by lost love. Leo Gursky is a retired locksmith who immigrates to New York after escaping SS officers in his native Poland, only to spend the last stage of his life terrified that no one will notice when he dies. ("I try to make a point of being seen. Sometimes when I'm out, I'll buy a juice even though I'm not thirsty.") Fourteen-year-old Alma Singer vacillates between wanting to memorialize her dead father and finding a way to lift her mother's veil of depression. At the same time, she's trying to save her brother Bird, who is convinced he may be the Messiah, from becoming a 10-year-old social pariah. As the connection between Leo and Alma is slowly unmasked, the desperation, along with the potential for salvation, of this unique pair is also revealed.

The poetry of her prose, along with an uncanny ability to embody two completely original characters, is what makes Krauss an expert at her craft. But in the end, it's the absolute belief in the uninteruption of love that makes this novel a pleasure, and a wonder to behold. --Gisele Toueg --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

I couldn’t agree more. Not only was this a beautiful story, the writing was phenomenal. At times, I wasn’t sure if I was reading poetry or prose and the swaying back and forth between the two made my head swim in the most delightful way. I loved this paragraph. It captures the power of the emotions, which flow through this story.

One caveat: Krauss uses a few Yiddish terms from time to time. Sometimes she provides the meaning of the word and other times the reader is left to wonder. Most of the terms can be looked up on the Internet with no difficulty. Don’t let this scare you away from this book. It’s a wonderful story!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Poetry Thursday – The Bone Yard

I’m extremely fortunate to have a large picture window where I work. My office overlooks an eight-lane highway, which is adjacent to an absolutely gorgeous cemetery with huge ancient trees and very old stones. The contrast between the highway and the cemetery is mesmerizing – and so I lost myself again in this “in-between” place for a while last Saturday. All the while thinking about the contrast – life flying by at sixty miles an hour, while only five feet away beyond the fence, a pastoral scene of death shepherded into untidy rows. And then, of course, I couldn’t help wondering if the dead had forgiven themselves, their loved ones, mankind – whether they had practiced forgiveness in life, or whether they ever knew what difference it makes. My daydream and meditations produced the following poem.

The cemetery in this photo is located in Worm, Germany. (I'd die for a view like this!!)

The Bone Yard

How abruptly this world ends
against your fence it swiftly stops
and everywhere the grasses bend
as mourners pace the coffin tops

In this place where time stands still
and ancient trees they grow unchecked
their boughs arch verdantly but still
they shadow those whose lives are wrecked

Swallowed by this hallowed ground
these worn out souls lie undigested
learn the meaning of repose
and in the end indeed are wrested

Rows of unforgiven souls
all casualties of life and love
escaped the world through these dark holes
and scarred the ones they left above

Do not wait till life has ended
as so many buried yet
and to the grave with wounds un-mended
like old men who breathe regret

Dennis Tkon Copyright 2007