Wednesday, May 31, 2017

In His Arms


He holds his mother in his arms.
He takes her everywhere.
He’s unaware that this alarms.
To others, she’s not there.

She asks him, “Billy, am I dead?”
She always calls him Billy.
All she had done was go to bed.
She finds the notion silly.








.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Who Knows What to Call that Color?


Look about! Rout the air
around your here-and-there
by intuition and by eye!
Free your pesky essences
to fly up to the not-blue-who-
knows-what-to-call-that-color sky –

with its arrays, displays and phases,
dips and rises of its cream-gray-
beige-green-lavender fragilities:
facilities at ease with, and evincing,
something like the tenor and the texture
of the wanton hues you’d readily

imagine would prepare you
for whatever views,
should they be granted,
you’d be shown of Soul.
If you’d like to, gaze with rue at others
who pass through the Whole

as if it were a color-free vacuity.
(What a nothing day!, they say.)
But don’t pray that they find a way
to see its harrowingly gorgeous panoply.
We’ve all our separate eyes and cares.
Who dares say they know what ours are,

much less theirs?
But wheee! Stick around for you and me
and these dimensional immensities:
teasing from the sky new sips and senses,
whiffs and glimpses of its being,
and of the heat and light and art of seeing.




.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Alice


Mother Nature never isn’t tinkering with paradigms.
It isn’t that she sometimes makes mistakes. What
could a mistake be to Existence? Is-ness is its sum
and total business. Nothing’s rated. No, she tinkers
with her paradigms because it makes her glad:

she’s ecstatically absorbed by the experiment.
Might she prod a few mutations that might render homo
sapiens a bit more really interested in what she’s done?
She only wants them to have fun! Well, some have fun.
But most are sucked down under by the weight of her

infinity: it’s overwhelming for our tiny brains to register
we’re infinite. (Which we don’t know we know, but oh!
we know.) What a pleasure it would be to undergo
a countervailing tidal wave of curiosity about the beautiful
velocity of which all sentience is the child. (Every wave

and particle is sentient.) Let the Cosmos be completely
fascinated with itself! That would be its most sustaining
wealth, the prize her progeny don’t realize they want.
Now Mother Nature has succeeded in devising the revised
female you see here in whom she’s invested an inordinate

proclivity for wanting to know everything. Because she
whisked her requisite ingredients into a chalice, she named
her Alice. She risked the sentimental (Mother Nature’s
all but never that) by a fact which she decided gave
her leave. The chalice had been made by Eve.


.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Do with me what you mayeth, ye who readeth what I sayeth.




I risk immodestly imagining that re-posting this reply to a friend, Dia Volpe, about a pic I affixed yesterday to my Facebook timeline of a chopped-off tree trunk (to which I gave the caption: 'I don't know what to say about this other than holy effin hmm') will be of more general interest. I risk it, however, to bring to the attention of as many people as I can reach the absorbingly interesting if alas, in most cases, sorry state of mental hygiene of many, perhaps most, of New York's trees and flowers. Pictures being worth a thousand something-or-others, perhaps my cluster of same herewith will on their own be a sufficient flag-down.

I’m hoping the fact that there’s all this uninterrupted Serious-looking text won’t set anyone up for expecting anything Serious from it. My addiction to cosmic hilarity sometimes takes the form of high-falutin’ fancy language overkill which, alas, some try to parse as if I – well, meant it. I mean, I probably mean something, but it’s, um, probably not – oh shut up, Kettelhack. Remember the completely warranted taboo about ever trying to explain why something’s funny. 

what I sayeth.

===================
Dia Volpe 
Was that a tree toppled by hurricane Sandy?

Guy Kettelhack
Well, Sandy was October 2012, this truncated trunk pic dates from May 2013, so could be. However, numerous catastrophes befall trees. New York can nuzzle and kiss and lick you, sneeze on or halitosis you, fall asleep roll over & flatten you, freeze or burn you, drug you into craziness or stupor, or stare into your eyes with such relentless sociopathy that your mental hygiene deteriorates to the point of paranoia and/or hallucination and/or ungovernable despair and/or a state of such magical thinking that you imagine absolutely nothing bad can or will happen to you ever again as long as you keep living in it (New York saves this last mental illness for the really really gullible, like me, who 'suffer' - if that could possibly be the word - from the affliction with a blithe unknowingness). 

Indeed, I think I may modestly claim to have applied myself over the years to what amounts (however unintentionally) to a reasonably telling anecdotal study of New York's effects on the mental hygiene of its trees and flowers, in a series of portraits of them at the extreme stages of their city-derived delusional mental and emotional illnesses, none of which, of course, bode well for a long or happy life (save the last magical thinking variety described above). As per the assortment of pics herewith. 

As you'll see, this can involve conjuring real-as-life visions of pornographic bunnies in your branches, contorting yourself into humanoid forms or expressions, generally situational shapes you (if you're a tree or a flower) unconsciously create in your craving to believe they will make you alluring or interesting or eye-catching to human beings, whom you know to be your default caretakers when they're not absently or actively in the process of killing you. 

Do not think for a moment that a Sycamore isn't entirely aware of every nanosecond of your behavior and facial expressions and body language. One of the reasons they arc over streets so gracefully is to pose more fetchingly for the eye of my iPhone camera. Don't think they didn't induce me to illuminate their plight of their schizophrenic tendencies. Leaves continually murmur to me about it. (Continually!) They're every bit as loquacious as stand pipes, and you know how THAT sub-culture has assailed me with their every whim and woe. It is part of the price I pay for my besotted love of New York - which of course includes sycamores & outside street plumbing. Prepare yourselves, when and if you ever visit me, for what I'm afraid will be the inescapably harrowing experience of walking down any New York street with me. You'll be whispered, crooned, hissed, yodeled and whistled at (standpipes are really good at whistling) from every variety of plant and sidewalk plumbing appliance. None of them doesn't know me by now. And I know their dreams and fears and longings and jokes.

But I try not to let on too overtly that I'm 'in on them.' Amazingly, other human beings think I'm making it up! Imagine.




 .

(Paralysis)


What impossibility shall we assay today?
Assay (I had to look it up): examine for analysis.
(How one wants to rhyme it with paralysis!)
Look at all the separated business of the body:
all its funny looking parts, the skin that wrinkles when
you crook an elbow, finger  bend your lips into a smile.

Think of arts for which some seem to have an aptitude,
a style for turning awkwardness to graceful use: say,
signing to the deaf, or masturbation, or the way
that twenty-something deli counterman is slicing up
that tubular perfection of a thick salami into thin
translucent slivers. Flesh gives me the shivers.

But I would die before I’d let another set of eyes look
on upon this grimmest enterprise: the public revelation –
my god, manipulation! – of my unlovely body parts.
Last night I dreamed my skin had been divided
into asymmetrical geometries: Sharpie outlines
slating for removal by a surgeon all of what beneath

them had to go. To be cut up like sturgeon for its roe?
I don’t know. What impossibility in all the panoply
of oddments (that purportedly add up, when
I regard them in reflective glass, to me)
should I examine for analysis – assay?
(Paralysis.) No way.


.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Where You Must Be


You think that coming out of chaos
is the problem. What else could being 
bred by chaos do but to foredoom you
to unspeakability?  

Well, yes, that’s true. You were and are,
will always be, unspeakable. But leaking out
of that is what and where and how and when
the fun comes. Lacking definition, Chaos is

and has to be the triumph of disorganized
catastrophe – the only source of stuff
and nonsense in the cosmos adequate
to line up what you’ve got with what it can

infini-grab from its unspeakability to catalyze
the babbling rotting polyglot of you into
the singularly sensible persuasive lingual stream –
new sentience breeding sentences that gleam –

according to and by which you can tell yourself
you’re fine. Finally you’re finely calibrated
to combine the Apollonian divine with the chthonic
tonic hunger, lust and rage that seek to ravage

the meticulous and suck it back and back until
the Universe’s size again begins to near the other
side of One. This is God’s way, or so they say,
of having fun. How lonely he’d be otherwise!

What’s a “they”? What could an “us” be?
Now you’re where you must be.
(Are these the conversations you will
have in heaven or in hell? Who can tell?)


.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Legatee


Before we get
to the particulars
of the estate –
to ascertain

the moral weight
of its requirements
and of the blunt
materiality of its

avoir-du-pois
and other exigencies
of what your provider
en fran├žais refers to

as dependent on ”la loi
du roi”, there’s a sacred
question to be asked
you as inheritor, which

if incorrectly answered,
means you’ll lose
all rights and interest
in and to the will.

Don’t fret, sit still.
It will all be over soon.
Look out the window
at the moon.

What do you see?
(I’d seen the face
of my provider.
Hadn’t he?)

Oui. (How could
he not agree?)
You are
the legatee.

(Apparently
the moon
belongs 
to me.)

.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Excruciating Charms


Who could possibly create the frame you do?
Through your sweetly organized arrangement
my eyes understand again exactly why they see.

The flicks and licks of light around the sides of you
do arabesques for me – summer-night al-fresco
tricks of sight in which each holographic piece evokes

the dazzling whole. Your shadow wings around
the center of whatever I could ever want to look at:
sings a barcarole: flings my love up like a baby in

a doting father’s arms: wields excruciating charms:
provokes the soul. I wonder how you fill this hole:
immanent as rhythm through the body from the heart:

drum-roll in a movie: you are careless, perfect Art:
a tremor in the blood, assimilating every feeling in
its stream. I wonder why I ache so in this dream.



.

In Praise of Eating Bowls of Cold Leaves, and Other Bewilderments


At first the only way I could think to ennoble the three pics I feature in this nonet of the desultory stash of Salad Ingredients I recently bought at Key Food on Avenue A (every item chosen because Cheapest) was to feature my mother's framed pen & ink Avon Lake Amityville ducks in back of the two salad stuff on bowl & plate pics - sweet little suggestion of narrative perhaps: look! the duckies are waddling toward the chick peas! In a pinch you can always count on my mother's ducks. 

But it needed more. So I interspersed six views of what I hope you'll agree are elegantly kaleidogrammed leaves and their edgy progenitor into the salad stuff's unprepossessing midsts. I mean, they was some relation: they were plants too. Which is what I'm apparently eating these days.

I'm perversely delighted by it all. First off because I'm fascinated by the tenacity of my reflex to reproduce this Long Island ca. 1966 supermarket idea of what Food is. I am forever marked by Bohack's & the A&P & Stop & Shop. But I acquired these bargain salad commodities and am eating them day after day for a much more joyous reason. And it IS joyous. If just as bewildering.

I don't know how it first noticeably happened, although I do know when - when I had gotten over time significantly porky by about 2011 (up to just under 220 or so, which is a lot on me), somehow, with no fanfare or angst or drama, a dial in me switched to LOSE WEIGHT and I proceeded to do so: lose, in fact, 65 pounds in the next not too long a time. This is not a boast. I can't claim any more responsibility for this than I must deduce by my "duh" observation that it apparently happened as the result of my behavior: what I guess is that the full system of response of me decided to act this way. I find, in fact, I'm less & less able (I know I say this a lot) to suss out 'intention' in anything. All I can see is that you do it. Or you do something else. I mean apart from, you know, when you know you gotta Go to the Bathroom & the like - there's 'intention' you can articulate there.


But prevailingly this losing-weight thing is very much the kind of "something else is doing this not me" sense I feel when I draw or - do anything else in my life these days. Somehow, some jittery hand at the Controls in me relaxed and let go of them, and whatever it is that I more largely am began to do what it wanted. And what it apparently wanted in this instance (I deduce, because it happened) was to lose weight. Buttered noodles and "Happy Birthday" Oreo Cookies had begun to parade in ever-greater number & intensity through my kitchen and into me over the past few months - that too was a 'decision' undergone no more consciously than this sudden shift to eating Key Food salad stuff now. There is no wizard behind the curtain. And there's nobody out here I can point to 'deciding' things either. It's much more interesting than that. Of course I might just be wackadoo. Well, we know I'm that.

Whatever, I'm in awe of people (sometimes I think everybody but me) who have clear takes on why they do what they do. So much of this choice business seems to rest simply for people under the tent of Common Sense.

But I don't find any sense common.

I do like bowls of cold leaves though!


.

Waking Up with June Allyson


I just awoke in stages – bumping, twitching, blinking –
from a 1940s sound stage, come to think: half pink-
furred poodle and half twirl-tressed movie star
June Allyson, whose laryngitic voice was just then
shoving through my throat as I awoke: came out
a choke of an unlovely bubbling: rattling, battling
breath: all reeled right into my awakened flesh. In fact,

my inner and my outer eye smacked right into each
other – both at once beheld the bug-eyed moon at
noon, the blundering sun at midnight. Whatever doubt
that where I was in dreams was any different from
where I was in my daylit schemes, had scattered
into misty bits. Miss Allyson’s and my voice rasped
in chorus: “Something fits!” I knew, as if by a decree,

the atmosphere above my dreaming ocean was made
of the same components in that sea: neither was more
clear, less real. The psyche doesn’t have to sneak
or steal to fill a lack: it never doesn't have enough
to play its acts – there never is too little or too much.
It bumbles, gasps and goes full blast from dusk to dawn
to dusk. I knew it wasn’t only in the weave of dreams'

imaginings that I lose touch: I lose touch, just as much,
awake all day! I vow now to invite my inner eye and outer
to reune soon. I’ll say,“Hey! Knit the day and night into
a festival of playlists: unite your dream songs with crisp-
consonanted speech!” I’ll encourage each to beckon
each into connection with the unimagined wonders
in each other’s realms, now no longer out of reach.


.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Breaking with an Article of Faith (Untoward Growth)



Over the years, it has become an article of faith for me that when I sit down to draw at whatever time of day the urge becomes untenably intolerable and I've therefore no choice but to give in to it (which is as close as I can come to saying why I do anything) that I not bring to the blank sheet of Southworth acid free thesis paper (what I draw on) any intention whatsoever.
 
This moment is probably as close to what I understand to be the experience of meditation as the Buddhists envision it: that is, I've been doing this pretty much every day for so many years that it's not a struggle at all: it's not, that is, one of those awful DON'T THINK OF AN ELEPHANT! self-directed-admonitions which of course insure that's all you'll think of. I guess I'm saying I don't intend to not have an intention, I just don't - by now, in fact, for the other and greater reason I do anything: it's a fine-toothed, -tooled, -honed pleasure. However, as you no doubt suspect from the accompanying duo of images, I recently broke with this article of faith, which, as a measure of the seriousness of this sin, I hereby publicly confess in full daylight in the center of Facebook's town square. That fragile audacity of an aberration of a delicate sprig of neatly ordered baby green leaves you see bleeping out of the bark of that tree - well, that little bibbly-bop bred that most dread of all things: an idea. An Intention. Which I (taking a deep breath) confess to having followed.
 
An idea (the source of intention) like an ideology, is surely the most killing phenomenon known to human consciousness. As with the sun or God or anybody/-thing you deeply love or hate, it's best not looked at in the face: its tyrannical glare can take over your soul, effectively kill it. However I shall whisper this to you: if in the thankfully rare occasion you find, after having run out of any possible alternative, you must entertain "an idea," give it a fleet sideways glance: register only the barest impression. Like a whiff of gasoline fumes, it can very occasionally prick you into a moment of skewed if vaguely drugged attention in which you - well, may find that most terrible of all things, an "intention," emerge from it as something generative. That is, I hope, what this intention (sprig out of bark becomes 'untoward growth' drawing & poem) turned out to be. 

But I labor in detail herein to warn you that however benign and floating amid visions of  festive flowers and happy flounders it may seem at first inarguably to be, intention is invariably the thin edge of the killing army of ideas and ideologies and other illusions of certainty which comprise the active substances of hell. Regard it always, in any dose greater than a whiff, as the terrible toxin it has proven itself to be now and in history: at the poisonous heart of why human beings find what strikes them as inarguable reason to hate and kill and turn life into living death. 

But every-so-almost-never-here-&-there-otherwise, dare to have one anyway.

....

.

Untoward Growth


 Oh,
unlovely,
untoward growth!

What will become of thee?

Will you be pruned,
or mulched,
or both?

Will
you be
torn obliviously
off in bits by passersby

or painted in the style of Klee
(no, not the homonym of ‘clay,’
the one who rhymes with 'me')?

Or will you, like the rest of us,
go on however long you

can, then simply
cease to

be?


.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

When I Wrote Books


Language tried to cage me in its cagey way today:
kept foisting “it” on me, as if “it” were an actuality,
not just a place-holder. “Language” is a funny
and dissembling word as well – commences
with a span that bridges and breaks down into the ugly
gorge of guage – which one enunciates as gwidge:
onomatopoeia for the choking noise that gwidges
from your craw when you, like Messrs. Holmes
and Moriarty, fall into and through that throat to hell.

“Well” is using up a lot of space as well: the Brits
prefer “as well” to “too” and “also” which the Yanks
appear to favor. Unexorcisably, the curse in verse that
that seems inexorably to beset me is, I can’t write
favor without having to – right now – write savor.

Psycho rhyme! That’s part of how I know I don’t write
poetry at all, but blocks of black marks packing into
architectural pretense: hence this cracked stack-up
of lines to which I seem to have consigned my jumpiest
synapses which connect to grind my brain into at least
the simulacrum of a mind. When I wrote books
that publishers you’ve heard of published
(hoodwinked people into letting me do volumes
such as Mr. Simon and his Schuster then begat; by now
I’ve been found out, so there will be no more of that),

I made my points, as much as not, through disingenuous
rhetorical interrogation – parenthetically attracting you
into my spider web: implying I was answering a query
you’d just posed. “What’s interesting is,” I’d ‘reply’
and then I’d say what was. Once what was, was
that “compelling” is a stirring call to laudable attention
and “compulsive” makes you think of rabid rats in sewers
squeaking madly while they gnaw into the nearest
ankle bone. That rankles just to the desired zone.

I used to think I was compulsive. Now I know I only
do what will compel. Those are the sorts of points
on which I used to dwell but now I’ve been found
out and Dutton, Doubleday and Dell won’t let me make
them anymore. But look! I haven’t written “it” for so, so
very long. Not everything I do is wrong.


.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Operative Lie


The dead await
an opportunity
to propagate, arrest 
the whirling surface 

of the living earth, 
to storm the gate 
to spread their rare 
grey pearl of purpose 

with impunity into 
unfathomable birth, 
but mainly to get fed. 
The operative lie 

is “wait”. They won’t 
arrest the whirl.
They’ll never
storm the gate.



.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Other Gods


Yes, there is a beast, and yes, you’ve felt the zephyrs
of his breath: exhalations that address, caress, undress:
the softer essences of night and dawn; what you believe

you’ll undergo, have undergone, have been below, above
and in: bestowed upon you, unconsidered and luxurious,
like the voluptuous effects of breezes brushing skin.

Change requires no psychic quake or spew or radical 
new view: no canyons need to be carved through,
no peaks need to erupt. Zephyr-breaths do not disrupt.

They breathe from what they are already – will succeed
in apprehending and abetting you affectionately as if you
were their beloved pet. You needn’t fret. Change need

not excruciate. Let its zephyr-breaths create, beget: sort
your predilections out, let go of doubt, to reconfigure you
a touch, not too much: enough so you are reassured

of getting absolutely everything – or knowing if you wanted
to, you could. Does this mean that the beast is very good?
You hope he is, but don’t know if you should. You feel

his breath. You’d bet that he’s a fact, but haven’t seen him
yet. Rumor is he doesn’t speak, he squeaks; doesn’t
creep, he flies. Maybe he’s a bat. Nothing wrong with that.

You hear he has arresting eyes. You surmise that if he’s
there – on sod, in air – he’d be a god you’d want. In that blunt
hope you let your faith rely. Other gods have left you dry.


.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Friends, in Color



Friends acquire color
from each other. Affection
generously renders it –
extends the flow of it
from where their minds are
meeting – circumambulating
all the upper spaces:

often with a predilection
for bright red, which
threads in calligraphic line
around the shoulders, skull
and spine before it radiates
away as if to spin its gladness
out to duller, paler faces.

Eventually color will imbue
the whole – travel through
the body to the core
that color is the proof of: soul.
That accounts for most
of all the glow in me and you.
Soul is made of hue.


.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Like Lilacs


Some lives are like the first apotheosis of the Spring:
beautiful and fleeting – incarnations of the prospect
and the promise of the most alluring loveliness that life

and Spring can bring – that bear repeating and repeating
as they manage to assay their lilting fragrant way to May,
their lilac scent an indescribable intoxication: made

unignorable by traces, faint opacities, of funk: the smell
of Death’s predation – more imminent than we could tell
by looking at them in the full veracities of bloom. Like lilacs,

when they’re cut and placed in vases in a room, they face
the final phases of their doom: in a trauma of aphasia, 
incommunicado with the world that was their love and lot,

every floating beauty in them curls up into rot. Once they
were, now they’re not. Though when they die the Spring
of which they are the symbol won’t have reached a pinnacle,

that seasoned season has amassed from lilac lives enough
to know what pinnacles must be. Perhaps all lives
are more like lilacs than we want to see.



.

Limewood’s Penchant for Catastrophe


Two poorly carved curved wooden ornaments meant
for a fancy mansion to add accents to an English
renaissance elm table in the dining room were,
just as soon as seen as having been designed ineptly,
dumped directly into some bleak yard in back where
discards, faux pas, broken rakes and other undeserving

bits of waste lay waiting for whatever next demise
would be their dreary destiny. But these two poorly
carved curved wooden ornaments would not put up
with this: to be dismissed disgustedly did not accord 
with their exalted self-esteem. Sufficiently infested with
their rage, they schemed – and planned their vengeance.

They could make a plan because the man who undertook
to undertake them into being gave them sentience.
Some artisans who work with certain kinds of lumber find
they too can do that. Grinling Gibbons, for example,
gave his carvings psyches, souls and minds because
he worked in limewood. The sad fact for their enemies

was that these poorly carved curved wooden ornaments
were limewood too. Sentient limewood also lined
and framed a good part of the mansion readily in view.
Limewood could send soundless messages to other
limewood radially within half-a-mile. And so a revolution
was fomented that quite made the elm wood table’s owner

lose his smile. How the limewood’s grand collective plan
began and then proceeded to succeed to make the stout 
elm table rot we cannot after all divulge. If we did, we fear
we’d make the limewood mad. Limewood’s penchant
for catastrophe is not a penchant we would press
it to indulge. The outcome would be very bad.


.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Alice and Carl and Bob and Guy: Mother's Day 2017.






Word-winds are buffeting me -- my prose-urge grows daily. Thinking about my mother, for example, makes me think about her mystery: a poem won't get at it, at least not given my meager poetic gifts. She requires something approaching the clear suggestive sentences she herself spoke and wrote. I'll do my best.

I liked to believe - and I still really do believe - that the last year and a half of her life I was able and privileged to share with her -- on balance share very deeply with her -- let me in on much I hadn't registered before. I think the same thing happened for her about me. We'd sometimes sort of cock our heads at each other the way dogs do when they're trying to divine what's going on in their stewards' faces & behavior. So unexpected, so entertaining, so interesting! What is she/he thinking? We discovered we had the power to make each other sit up & notice. She told me stories I'd never heard before - not, I think, because they'd been withheld for any dark painful reasons: it was more because we'd never had this unbroken a stretch of being with each other as adults - we hadn't invited the occasion for this kind of rambling rumination, this sort of opening the side doors to memory.

One account of/in her life I'd never known until this time with her was the outcome of a story I did know. The story I knew happened when Alice Virginia Blake was a girl, not sure how 'little', somewhere between 9 and 12 maybe?, living in Brooklyn Heights - in the home of her maternal relatives (her mother had died of a combo of TB possibly brought on by the 1918 Spanish flu when my mother was about 1 1/2 and her father had abandoned her and brother Mike in a household probably somewhat reluctant to take on their care), she sledded down a hill, rammed face-first into one of Brooklyn Heights' elegant 19th century wrought iron fences and knocked a tooth out.

The story I didn't know was that she went all through high school with a gap in the front of her mouth declaring the absence of that tooth. One presumes she rarely smiled largely. There were ways in 1930 (she was born on Christmas Eve 1917 so I'm guessing that was about the year it happened) of replacing it, but the family (at the onset of the Depression which probably more than partly accounts for it) couldn't/didn't muster up the funds for the necessary dental work. When my mother's father (who had remarried in the period after he'd abandoned Mike and Alice) was induced shortly thereafter by his older and much more successful brothers (one was the head of Cunard; my grandfather had a mostly clerical insurance job at Met Life) to resume responsibility as a father and take his kids back (they moved when she was about  12 or 13 to live with him and his wife Dorothy - who was a witty fun woman but oh was she not a mother!) in Forest Hills, no move to restore my mother's smile was ever made. She had it fixed only when she was able herself to save money from her first jobs to do so - shortly after she was 18.

Anyone who knew my mother remembers her as beautiful. She was one of the great beauties I've known - the kind of bred-into-the-cheekbones-&-jaw beauty that never faded as she grew older. The 'architecture' of her face was so fine. The idea that her father didn't move paradise and purgatory to make sure his beautiful daughter had that tooth replaced is - bewildering. She never spoke of dating in high school. This beautiful girl may never have had a date until that gap in her mouth was filled: after which point she was surrounded by suitors. She became, by 21, one of the most beautiful young women at the Art Students League (and probably in New York): witness the portraits of her drawn & painted then which I posted recently (she worked as a model among other jobs at the League to support herself) -- and there are a lot of wonderful pics of her, full of joy.

She had the temperament for joy. Quieter than my father, but it ran deep. She's one of three human instances (if you'll pardon that abstraction) I know - Quentin Crisp and Connie Clausen are the others - who most amply suggest the unstoppable power of inborn temperament. My mother was going to do what she wanted to do. Remaining a  good Catholic schoolgirl (her mother was Catholic, so she'd been brought up as one in her mother's family household: then shoved into the tonier Episcopal Church when her father took over), she followed her heart - deciding from the earliest age she would make her living as an artist, which against many odds she managed to do - always of course behaving very well. But she was driven by a force which in some ways maybe belied her outward gentleness. She embodied life very powerfully, I realize now, even if largely quietly. It took the full measure of my year and a half with her, the last 18 months of her life, to realize something of the depth of that force. But the mystery remains. Well, the mystery remains in all of us of course. But she was and is a more radiant being than many - and radiance hides as well as reveals. I remember she had me read H. Rider Haggard's "She" - a great saga about a goddess found in the depths of the Amazon by explorers - which was a book her father gave her (instead of a dentist appointment): something in the gleaming mysterious largeness of "She" illuminated my mother. She was also uncomplicatedly kind.

The first pic here is the earliest I have (in an era when studio portraits of babies were all but de rigueur even in middle-class American families, there's not a single extant baby picture of her or her brother Mike) - I'm guessing about 1932; she looks about 15: her lips sealed over that gap in her mouth - tempted to say gap in her heart, but that might be too easily sentimental: gaps in her heart there surely were, but she wasn't going to be put under by them. The second pic is the beautiful young Alice standing in the wind & sun of Rockport, to which she repaired with other League Students for the school's summer 'camp'/workshops - she and my father returned there all throughout their lives, although eventually staying mostly in Gloucester. (Quieter Cape Ann, not Provincetown, for them.) The third pic is my mother and brother Bob and me at the Amityville Public Beach, probably 1953. Then there's a pic or her with my father and me in December 1997: her 80th birthday. My father was fast vanishing into the abyss of Alzheimers. And finally my fave pic of her, I think: sitting with me in the sand at the beach again when she was 40 (I'd guess) and I was about 7: ca.1958 on a windy fall day at the beach. She loved being near the sea. Especially in autumn.

Mother's Day 2017. She'd have reached 100 years of life by December 24 if she were still here.

I will never not wonder if she knows I've just written this.

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