How It Could Be

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Ink comes from ashes and paintbrushes are made of fur.  The good ones, my teacher said, are horsehair.

I caressed my brush, the long, thick soft fur, and it was only because other people were there I didn’t run it across my lips.  A soft paintbrush or an apricot, he two most beautiful feelings on a lip, without other lips or a forehead or a cheek to kiss.

“Are they ever made from squirrel?” someone asked.

I like squirrels.  But I fear New York City squirrels, bastards are always so close you could grab them.  Just try it! they say with their beady eyes.

Glue, which holds the ink together, or makes it stick, I don’t know, I never took chemistry, anyway the glue in ink is from cow skin and bone (that Elmer’s cow) or rabbit (I also like rabbits), or egg yolks.

“Where does ink come from?” my teacher said.

I didn’t think I should say, “Octopi.”  So I was silent.

“Ashes,” someone said.

“That’s right.”

We got a bowl of ink, a plate to make a light tone, and a plate to make a medium tone.  We had to start with the biggest brush.

“You’re supposed to have the time preparing the ink meditatively,” teacher said.  We were not meditative, ours was poured right from a bottle.

The whole brush soaks in light ink, half the brush in medium ink, and just the tip in ink itself, undiluted.

The first half of class, teacher said nothing to me, presumably because I am a genius.  Later she gave me bigger paper, advised I mix tones more, and make my carrot bigger.  By carrot I mean, my representation of a carrot.

Chinese ink is from the 23rd century B.C.E.  You’re saying, “It can’t possibly be that old.”  You know the Chinese weren’t fucking around back then.  They were inventing ink while everyone else was picking his nose.

“She is the best at using the gradations at the ink on the brush,” my teacher said, of me.  I would have preferred she say, “And she is a genius,” instead she added,  “And thinking. I could see how much she was thinking about everything she does.”

Shit,  I know, I thought.  She thinks.  About everything.  She does.

At painting class, I was thinking visually, measuring size and shape and weight and balance, without words.  At least that was a change.

We could crumple the paper, to give it texture.  Or let the ink drip dots.

I was reminded of how art classes go, some people ooh and ahh over some pieces, others laugh at themselves, some people are validated, some are frustrated, some are nonchalant, and you don’t know if that’s real.

I loved the full ink, undiluted, but making a stroke you liked with the full ink wasn’t easy.  It could look so rude.

Where does ink come from?

Squid.  So they can hide.

The animals.  It all comes from the animals, all of us.

What gives our skin pigment, and tan, melanin, is what the squid’s ink is.  Mostly.  Melanin and spit.

Every morning I re-ink myself, Mercy, in sharpie: xylene, ethylene glycol mono butyl, propanol, butanol, and diacetone, resin.  Color, and something that holds it together.

Three of my students have noticed and asked.  “Do you have a tattoo?”

“No.”

“Are you going to get a tattoo?”

“No.”

“Why did you write that?”

“I don’t know,” I said.  “It makes me think of a Shakespeare quote, and a Biblical quote.”

“Who needs the mercy?  You need to be more merciful to other people?  Or you need to be more merciful to yourself?  Or you need mercy?”

“Those last two, I think,” I said.

In 5th Century China, there was no distinction between calligraphy, writing, and painting. Painting was writing, and writing was painting.  Painting, I have a scribbly way in me that I naturally make cities on hills, with water around and below.  Where does that come from, and how is it like my constant reliance on certain words: but, warm, gold.

How is my father’s handwriting loopy, curly, and my mother’s is scratchy, and mine is scratchy, but fatter, and why does my father doodle in boxes with balls on the corners, and why do I doodle in cities on hills, with water around and below?  Why is my sister’s handwriting more like my father’s, why is my own beloved to me like the shape of my eyes?  What if I had a stroke, and then I had new handwriting?

Traditional Chinese landscapes are made this way: the painter goes to the top of the mountain, sketches.  Goes down to the valley, sketches.  Goes up to the foothills, sketches.  The final piece will use all three of these views combined.  The final piece will be a view no one will ever get, except in the painting.  It is some kind of “how it could be.”

Ink comes from ashes.

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Loose Ends

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My Lenten practice is to write “Mercy” on my left hand, in the curve that leads to my thumb, every day, in Sharpie.  It is possible that this practice will poison me. I have googled “Sharpie tattoo.”  It’s less painful than flogging oneself with thorny branches, though.

Anything outside my routine distresses me slightly, so while I was certain I would take off work for A Day Without A Woman (I can, so I will), and figured I’d go to some part of the gatherings, I also fretted because my routine was broken.

My routine right now is not great, though.

My waking up is: alarm, turn on NPR, half-sleep, snooze goes off.

If the news is particularly snarky, I am snapping, aloud, back at the innocent announcers.  “Yeah, that’s a great idea.  Tell poor people to save money they don’t have to pay for health care.”

Looking at my phone, at Facebook, this is how I seduce myself to open my eyes, to see who likes the clever things I’ve written, who has responded cleverly, who has said clever things, who has shared the infuriating news stories must I read.

Then I’m freaking the fuck out before I even put on my glasses.

I can see to read on my phone when I close one eye and hold it real close.  My jaw tight, my shoulders poked up.

I forgot how during the Bush administration, merely the sound of his name elevated my heart rate, particularly leading up to the Iraq war, which I had protested against, like many other thinking people.

I forgot how once Obama was sworn in, every time I heard his name on the radio, I had the same feeling I get when I hear my Dad’s cough, when I am home, I sleep above the kitchen, and I can hear my dad cough, and I feel, okay, he’s got this.

My dad is not a fan of the president’s, thus this is a funny comparison.

I am exhausted from knowing there is a president who is insane, and a president who has spoken so violently and crudely about women.  It doesn’t go away.

Here is how Facebook may help you: post your plan, then feel as if you must fulfill it.  Post that you are going to do yoga, and you might.  I told all those nice people I was going to have a nice day, so I guess I better.

I have not done yoga since DT was elected, because who can do yoga when Rome is burning?

I had a session with a student yesterday, she had hit a wall with schoolwork and said, “I just couldn’t make myself do it.”

“Do you meditate?” I said.

We talked about meditation videos, apps, podcasts.

Then today, since I had the whole day off, and since I had already done the yoga, I meditated.

I have meditated since DT was elected, only because I belong to a group where we meditate.  Every time I leave feeling enormous, my proper weight, physically and emotionally, and color-corrected.

But I only have so much force-myself in the day.  I can make myself read my Biblical passages, and take a moment of gathering myself, on the train in the morning, but the train at the end of the day: no way.

I actually think there’s nothing more important than meditating right now.

This does not mean I’m actually going to do a lot of meditating.  It’s just a theory.

An advantage of being a woman is that your body can be used for greater purposes.  That has been a Christian idea I’ve always loved: Mary and her body and her openness to letting God use her.  She was asked, she said yes, she let it happen.

Another advantage is that you choose what to let in, who to let in.  (It should be this way, I know for many too many women this is not the case.)  That’s a part of your thinking from puberty on.  You choose who you let in, what you let in.  If you let shit in, you’ll feel like shit.

Sometimes I look at my hand and it says, “Mercy,” and I think about being merciful to myself.  Sometimes I think of being merciful to someone else.  Sometimes I think, “The quality of mercy is not strained/it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven,” which was written on a monument outside the hospital, near where I used to work.  The quote continued: “Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;/It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”

Sometimes I think, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

I need voices, though, bedtime stories and morning stories to wake me, and it must be interesting enough to hook my chattery mind and dull enough to smoothly slide into dreams.

NPR has markers to let me know it’s time to leave, though, they do a “gig alert” bit that means I have ten minutes.  A youtube reading of Moby Dick won’t do this.  Although it is extremely soothing.

How to remain active, speaking of yoga, like warrior pose, ready, active, but not strained, not set by the rhythm of twitchiness of the internet.  I don’t know.  I really like reading a crazy article in the Times, then in the Post, then on CNN, then from Fox.  Shit!  My God!

The quality of mercy is not strained, or twitchy.

It is loose.

There is nothing more important we can do right now than calm down.  I’m afraid eventually, somehow, the government will calm down, and we will have to again sit with only our own problems with ourselves and our stupid friends.

Think of the sculpture at the front of the chapel with Jesus with the whole world in his hands, like the song.  I can hardly believe in that idea.  It doesn’t matter if I believe in it.  It’s still there.

Image: String of beads, Predynastic, Egypt, ca. 3900-3650, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Legs and Toes

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Ballet, just at home, with a hand on the edge of my open top dresser drawer, in leggings and a tiny top, so I can see my stomach fully sucked in, if you can hold in your belly, you can support anything, and my butt fully tucked, my spine’s results must be straight for the sake of art, not even vanity, though that’s nice, and ballet slippers, there is concentration, pull, demands, and such straightness in such a crooked world.

There is how I can point my toe, not as much as the ballerinas in the video, but it points, and how much I can raise a leg, circle it, until my forehead and under my breasts is sweaty.

In a crooked world, where I might have to wait twenty minutes for a train, how did that happen, in the waiting room that is glass-enclosed, with two heaters hung from the ceiling, and black metal benches that run one length of it, a trash can in the center.

A man walked in wearing nothing but a red t-shirt, as a Gandhi-style diaper.  He said nothing we could understand.  He didn’t stay long.  He had other business.

I had my crossword puzzle, and my thin sharpie, which is not because I don’t make mistakes, but because one must sin boldly.

I am sitting at a tall table in the Queens college student union, and I realize eating lunch sparks my panic, still sizzling from a full panic attack Monday, and I think, I can go downstairs and chat with my coworkers.

I do this, and the bitter, burning adrenaline that has been rising up my throat simmers down. I ask questions I don’t need to ask.  I make jokes.  I get the food down.

Where I get off the subway, in Jamaica, Queens, there are the dollar vans, actually $2, I hear, there are young men standing by vans running these technically illegal but traditional form of transportation.  I don’t know where the dollar vans go.

Only if it is warm, on the street they sell fruit.

Only on Valentine’s Day, they sell flowers, all bundled up, the sellers are, not the flowers, they’ll be outside all day, and it’s cold, February.

It’s Jamaica, with family court across the street, a historic house a block away, some sort of social service agency I go past, when I take the bus, lots of people get on the bus there.

Jamaica is spelled that way now, but it is so-called because of the Jameco Indians, who are long gone.

It just makes me sad.  Jamaica Queens is not warm, no palm trees, no beach.

It is so warm, I put on the dress I just bought.  It is too cold to wear the dress, even with a heavy chocolate wool sweater over it.  My legs freeze, bare, my ears are cold.  “You can borrow my jacket,” someone says, but I am too vain to do this.

I take the train from church to the New York Times.

It occurs to me that these are two foundations of my faith: church, journalism.  The third would be Art, just plain Art, if I had proceeded to the Met, what a day.  I did not, I went to 41st Street and over, on one side of the building was no one, and I thought, aw, no one came, but around the corner people were holding signs and chanting.  Bagels, Coffee, and A Free Press, a sign says.

For one hour– not even, for half an hour, I chanted, and my problem (of those many political problems I have) was leaving lots of prestigious media outlets, outlets with many American readers who want their reporting done, their questions asked, out of presidential press briefings.  We want, we are owed for the loan of our power.

I was cold again, because today my underestimating of the weather was thin skirt, cold knees, boots, wool sweater and coat, wool hat, not enough for 43 degrees, knees out.

Image: “Diana,” Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A Train

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The next person who tells me I should write a book, I will stab.

I regularly think of dumping all the extant printouts of books I’m working on in the recycling.  This isn’t quite dramatic enough, though.  I do that all the time, anyway, mark up hard copies, make the corrections, recycle the pages.

Then I think I should erase the google docs.  Because, let’s face it, I will likely be the one to take out the recycling.

I’m sure there would be some sort of sound effect were I to do so.  Siri or somebody would say, “How bad you feel!  I see you feel very bad!”  And I would say, “I do!  I feel terrible!  I try so hard!  No one cares!”  And then it would say, “Deleted.”

This is like my dad’s story of growing a beard when he got divorced.  “Did you want to do something when you found out you couldn’t have kids?” he asked me.

“No,” I said.  Maybe if I could grow a beard.  What women want to do is to get bangs.  Or become brunette.  I manage to avoid both impulses when they rear their ugly heads.

What it’s like to be us is to not have anyone know you are not all right, because it’s so embarrassing, but then really need someone to know you are not all right, just for a sec, just to say, “I see you feel bad,” so we can say, “Oh, no, I’m fine.”

I think instead about not submitting anything, ever again, perhaps I just write for myself.  Like Emily Dickinson, whom I love.

Don’t ever tell someone to write a book.  Say, “I am right now giving you the $20 your book will cost, and I’m clicking the fuck out of your blog, until it can’t walk, and I’m calling my agent/editor friend right now, and just give me a free copy when it is inevitably published, I’m kidding, I’ll buy another one then.  And your drink’s on me because you’re the smartest, sexiest, tallest person I’ve ever met, also the best writer.  Also I like your shoes.”

I’ve been to many writing conferences, classes, have three times sat with writer who had a respectable book published, with one of my books, and s/he said, “This is good.  You’re going to get this published.”

Then you skip off and feel very smart.

Then you know for whatever reason this does not happen.

So you end up a person waiting for the subway thinking maybe you will just go home and go back to bed because why.

I’m not really a suicidal type, but I do get such pressing depression that I can’t breathe, I have to force myself to eat anything, anything, and I am worried about myself, and I can’t think what to do, and usually the worst passes in an hour, and the bulk of it in a couple of days.

Then I stop checking the stats on my blog to see if anyone gives a shit about me because, obviously, you know, that’s not healthy.

Anyway I got on the train because I wasn’t that crazy.

A clarinet player on the train played “Frere Jacques” and “Pop Goes the Weasel,” and “B-I-N-G-O,” and I gave him a crumpled dollar, and he made me smile, which I did not feel like doing, but was, as they say to the preschoolers, a good choice.

I got off the train and walked down the street and hurried and looked and thought I saw Mandy Patinkin coming out of an apartment building and walking towards me, then I was sure I had seen him, which was insane because I was listening to “On the Street Where You Live,” which is so beautiful, and then I was skipping off, that street is also the street Gershwin lived on, I turned the corner, tossed my postcard to President Trump telling him to fuck off in the mailbox I didn’t even know was there, and off to church.*

*Some parts of this previous paragraph may be true, except I did see a bearded man with glasses, I was listening to “On the Street Where You Live,” and I did mail a postcard to the president, and the Gershwin part.

The priest did the service just the way I would have, bringing over a chair to sit with us for the sermon, and asking us all to come up and stand right in front of the altar together for communion.

In the sermon he talked about his mother dying of Alzheimer’s, coincidentally, today is the anniversary of my grandmother’s death, of Alzheimer’s.

The same day she died, she died in the wee hours, I got up, was told that she died, and went to the hospital to visit my friend, who had almost died, but had not died, we played tennis with a balloon in the physical therapy room, and then I went and bought underwear.

It was a memorable day.

Also I will stab the people who tell me, “Oh, you’ll meet someone.”  I know they mean to be nice, but still I will stab them, for passing on the illogical idea that things you want, you get.  If you want them enough.  If you just keep trying.  Like some people don’t get hit by trains.  Some people get hit by trains.

(You should watch “Baskets,” on F/X, to get this reference, and you should pay for it, because those people did a fine job making two season of a TV show.)

The lesson was the story about Jesus healing the epileptic, so we say, it seems more like “mentally ill guy” to me.  Not literal healing, maybe, but whatever.  How the story is used as a weapon against the ill, the poor, the raped, if you really believed, God would protect you.  From demons.  Sometimes here people stop and explain what ancient people meant by demons, and I stop them, and I’m like, “I get it.”

I spent a good bit of time discussing Job with one of my students last week.  “I don’t get it,” she said.  “I don’t get it, either,” I said.

“I think God is with people all the time, even though they die,” the priest said, and I thought I thought that, too, at least now that he had said it, I did, I didn’t before, when I walked in, but I remembered now that I did.

I was pleased to know all the responses without a prayer book, and I was bummed one of the three other women there was the girlfriend of someone who worked for the church, which lessened my status, and that the other woman had a daughter who went to Columbia, because not only do I not have a daughter, I also have never, and will never, get to go to Columbia.

Because I brought my actual self, and she is petty about this shit.  Real petty.

Then I bought a candle for $3.27 and wrote my grandma’s name on it, and the poem I read as she died, and I lit it, and I left it.

Image: “RFK Funeral Train,” Paul Fusco, Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

Can you believe it’s not on display?  It should be.

Planes

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Close planes (toys, ideas)

far planes (so minor do you mind)

and seagulls, the size between,

they go as gentlemen

no one rushes them,

in and out of dens,

no one holds them up, with sticks,

no one hung them there, on invisible lines,

wheels tucked, feet tucked,

pasted on

the same air

the only air we have,

what we all must share, that sky,

with cement, painted on with the brush

that’s fastened in the lid of the jar,

the sky is flat,

they guzzle tinkly

metal pin tunes

when at home

and when out

turn them

out from inside themselves.

Image: “Roofs and Sky,” Louis Lozowick, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

 

Gambling

dp248330This is an apocryphal story in my family: a dad took his family to New York, saw a guy with the cards on a card table on the street, said, “I can do this!” and lost all their trip money in four minutes.  Three card monte.

“You have a lovely voice,” said the woman to my left, who had brought her husband.

“Thank you.”

“What’s this?” said the guy on the other side of me.

“It’s from ‘Guys and Dolls,’ it has Frank Sinatra, you’ll love it,” I said to the handsome Indian guy with glasses.

“You can bring him up to speed,” I said to his boyfriend, when they switched places.  “You can work with him.”

“Yeah,” he said.  “He’s a good guy.”

For at least half an hour, I was having fun.  This night the piano player was different last night, they’re always enthusiastic, of course, or pretend to be, that’s the job, but last night, he was bursting out of his skin, rocket fuel, there was a concentration, fluidity, ease, in the keys, the banter, the way the songs went into each other, the way he defended himself as they must against one or another drunk demanding a dumb song.  Last night it was no problem.  There were no problems.

We sang “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” which I didn’t recall singing before, nice, even if we didn’t get to the dirty verse, and “Maybe” from “Annie,” which we don’t sing often, but I love.

Maybe far away

or maybe real nearby

she may be pouring his coffee

he may be straightening his tie

When the waiter came back and I ordered a whiskey, he said, “Good girl.”  There are two other people who say this to me, my godmother and my stepmom.  My godmother, when I do something brave like move to New York, and my stepmom when I remember to put the convertible top back on my dad’s car.

While I was waiting for my coffee the next morning, a woman said, “Do you live around here?”

“Well,” I said, “In New York, yeah, but not around here.”

“Well my church is having a….”

“I just came from church,” I said, which should have been enough.

“Well, we’re having a seminar about how prophesies are coming true….”

That is the last thing I want to hear about.  Wait, which prophesies?  I figured she meant the evil dictator ones, not the lion and the lamb lying down.  I didn’t figure she was going to invite me to sit and hear someone say it was going to be all right, that every valley would be exalted and every mountain and hill would be made low, and the crooked made straight, and the rough places, plain.

Somewhere it’s all right, but not here.

Maybe in a house

all hidden by a hill

she’s sitting playing piano

he’s sitting paying a bill

It was raining ice today.  Still I got up and dressed and walked through it, walked slowly on ice sidewalks to the subway, red umbrella arch proscenium over my view of our boulevard with its black scratch trees in two lines, then even more slowly down the subway steps that were almost underwater.

I was only a little late, I had missed only the opening hymn and prayers.  I sat in a pew right behind a stone pillar, its soft shape attracted me, when we stood for the gospel, I touched it because it looked soft, and it wasn’t.

“She loves chocolate,” someone told me.

“But she hasn’t had it in two years?” I said.

“She’s fasting from chocolate,” someone said.

“That’s intense,” I said.  “I used to fast for Lent.  I don’t any more.  Once I had given up alcohol, and I ended up sitting with two poets and a painter until late at night, and they got more and more beautiful and I got duller.  Never again.”

I didn’t say exactly that, but that was what I meant.

Betcha they’re good

why shouldn’t they be

I undecorated the Christmas tree.  Pulled the red shiny balls off the branches.  The branches were as crunchy as bones.  The lights were wound around folded, old sections of the New York Times, a newspaper full of lies and fake news.  I pulled the popcorn string off.  I opened my bedroom window, fished each string out, and shut the window on the end of the string, so birds would eat them, or squirrels, hopefully not rats, but if rats, oh, well.

My roommate carried the tree down to the sidewalk, lay it on top of the black trash bags and their snow coats.  I crossed myself.  It seemed like the thing to do.

Maybe now this prayer’s 

the last one of its kind

won’t you please come get your baby

maybe

Image: “Planning the Capture of Booth” by Alexander Gardner, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Annie” lyrics by Martin Charnin.

The Sweetness of Venus

dp232920Last week I sat at a table with one of my students, I asked what she wanted to do first, she said, “Let’s read these poems.”

I said, “I like to read poems three times.”

This isn’t true, I much prefer to read things once, like a slob, but I have accepted the wisdom of reading a poem three times.

“Okay, we can take turns,” she said.

We took turns.  One half of the cafeteria was packed.  It was the first week of winter classes, all the kids were catching up with each other.  In the other half, the tables were all set with braided rolls and bottles of grape juice, by the Jewish group, for Shabbat.

I’m not quite used to how instead of persuading, convincing, or steamrolling kids into doing what’s good for them, my tutoring students are ready and eager to do pretty much whatever I suggest.

It’s like I’m driving around in second gear, on the snow, when I used to be 70 on the interstate, in the rain.

It was a poem about a woman getting older and losing her beauty, which meant something to me.  I don’t know what it might mean to my 19-year-old student.

The poem has “permanent blue stitches in her cheeks,” which reminded me of  when I saw a tiny blood vessel showing through my cheek.  Later that day, I  walked into my mother’s house, and I said, “Look at this, I’m a monster.”

“No one can even see that,” they said.

The poem talked about “sucking in her stomach,” which was what I had been doing, it was my main comfort, after the election, doing ballet, a great part of which is sucking in your stomach.  Not to look sexy, but to strengthen it, so someone can punch you, and he will hurt his hand.

It talks about a “dumb blonde,” which reminded me of how my uncles used to tease me about being a dumb blonde, when I was a little girl.  In fact, being dumb about anything, even for a moment, improve my disposition.

They also used to put their elbows on my head and say, “You make a good armrest.”

Although I grew up in this family, I still held a strong notion that the way I looked was important.  That at any event, holiday, having a great dress and being beautiful would impress everyone, and maybe more than that, they would understand me.  I can’t separate the pleasure of being thought beautiful from the surge of love that comes from being understood.

“Something she had carried a long ways,/but had no use for anymore,” my student read.

“Saturday Night Live” did their duty improving our spirits by making laughs out of a lot of terrors this week.  One of the lines was about how women reacted to DT: “every single one of the women was ovulating left and right,” which was maybe funnier to me because I don’t ovulate any more.  So I have been told.  It’s hard to think of anything less relaxing, less sensual, less arousing, than that man in his current incarnation.

“‘To wave their flags in the parade,'” my student quoted.  “What is that about?”

We talked about flowers.

The other poem she had to read was “The Soul Selects Her Own Society.”

“That isn’t really the title,” I said.  “She didn’t title her poems.  They just gave them titles.”

“Well, I won’t read it like the title, then,” she said.

There were two women I wanted to be: Isak Dinesen and Emily Dickinson.  I wanted to go far away, teach kids, plant things, throw beautiful parties, be tragic, hide at home, and write.  It worked out.

“Unmoved– an Emperor be kneeling,” she read.

“She didn’t capitalize like that, either,” I said.  “No one is sure how she capitalized.”

“Choose one,” he read.

Then I read it: “Close the valves of her attention.”

“I guess they knew about heart valves, then, they were confused about a lot of things, but they should know that, at least,” I said.

One of the earliest people to understand the heart was Galen, who lived in 2nd century Greece. He learned a lot about how the heart functioned by observing, and, at times, repairing, the wounds of gladiators.  He got a lot right, saved a lot of gladiators, but like many biologists from way back, he had this obsession with the liver that led him astray.  He thought the liver pumped the oxygenated blood.

It was Italian doctor Realdo Columbo who figured out that the four valves of the heart pump blood in one direction only.

Coincidentally, Columbo was also the first Westerner to suggest that the clitoris had something to do with making women feel good.  It’s hard to imagine just how popular this made him in 1559.  He tried to name it “the sweetness of Venus,” but unfortunately this did not catch on.  Italian men, huh?  I don’t know, when I went to Italy, I had a boyfriend back home and thus did no research.

What is there left in this thorny-news world mess?  We do still have the clitoris.

I did get a little drunk in Italy, every day I was there.  I wasn’t there very long.  I had to go back to my hotel and take siestas, it was so hot, ninety, a hundred degrees.  I wore dresses, always, they were cooler, and when I got back to my room, I pulled my dress off over my head and lay on the bed.  Had I remembered to check if my hotel had air conditioning?  I had.  It was cool in my room, even on the top floor, under the eaves, the ceiling sloped low.  I moved a chair right under it so I would remember to duck.

The coolest place I went was under, deep under, the church of San Clemente.  Down many stairs, into where it was dark and echoey, past a room that was a temple to Mithros, down and around, into the deepest room, where there was nothing to see but a spring, and nothing to hear but our voices echoing with each other, and the running water.

Image: “Georgia O’Keefe- Hand and Breasts” by Alfred Stieglitz, Metropolitan Museum of Art