Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What You Can't See under Folded Knuckles

Parallel to the country road
lies the long narrow pig barn,
a freezer case filled with packaged dinners.
Cradled by splintery wood fences,
the heavy dark boar sleeps in the back third
while children challenge their bravery
by scampering across from one side to the other.
Six small pens like chunky brown rims
line the side where piglets wriggle and squeal
and sows scratch their backs
like itchy boughs scrape against a house.
Opposite, tools, bridles, and saddles hang on the wall
over bales of hay, skeins of yellow yarn,
resembling a kitchen
with its chipped Formica countertops
and faded brown and orange linoleum.
Outside the barn’s loose jowls,
a large raccoon in her nightly visit
stands on her back legs, tips to the ground
the cardboard box holding the pigs’ morning
meal of stale bakery goods,
the pink frosting tempting to any appetite.

LL, 3/31/2009. Prevail.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Chocolate Hotdogs

In an effort to empower my boys, I have been teaching them a little autonomy, bit by bit, in the kitchen. Under supervision, they can put a pizza in the oven after placing their choice of toppings on flattened dough and throw together Kraft macaroni and cheese with its ¼ cup of milk, butter, and processed cheese powder. On their own, they can make a handful of items: Top Ramen, turkey sandwiches, waffles with peanut butter, Hot Pockets, and the recently added hotdog. So Wednesday evening, after selecting the new menu item, nine-year-old Alex, independent of my assistance, proudly announced while carefully preparing his meal, "And now for the pièce de résistance, chocolate syrup!"

"Excellent," I murmured, not really attending to his comment. A couple of minutes later, I finally processed his statement (chalk it up to my interpreter brain where I lag behind, digging beneath words and signs, searching for intent and meaning), blinked and saw that, indeed, he was heartily inhaling two hotdogs couched in their buns, blanketed by a thick layer of chocolate syrup.

"This is delicious! I love cooking!" he exclaimed.

I kept quiet. After all, I did get the evening off from cooking.

LL, 3/27/2009. Prevail.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A House that Looks Like Something a Child Might Draw

Kettle Falls, 1947

On the banks of the rural river’s rain-pocked skin,
grasses in stretched stitches
carpet the campsite’s pine floors
in a braided rug of fabric remnants.
Trees form vertical frown lines between bushy eyebrows,
propping the tarp that covers and hangs like an upper arm’s slackened skin.
The electrical hum from roadside poles
feeds the refrigerator and washing machine
while the firebox beneath the griddle top counter
created from clay carried in coffee cans across the crusted river,
cooks quail, chicken, and pine-scented porcupines cleaned from its quills.

LL, 3/21/2009. Prevail.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Just Wrinkles

Today, I learned that a 76-year-old valued member of the Deaf community passed away over the weekend.

You know, they just don’t make them like they used to, the great sign language orators and storytellers of yesteryear. For example, the strong use of body shifts. I’m not talking about the leans from side to side and half body turns. I am talking about the standing orator who shifts his whole position on stage as he embodies the character of whom he is speaking.

The grand use of space. And I’m not talking about pointing and referencing. I am talking about the whole and complete use of the space around his body from head to toe, from his left to right extended arms.

And the inclusion and recognition of everyone in attendance. Addressing the local deaf center’s board, bowing as he signs, “Ladies and gentlemen, members of the board, guests, members of the community, and beautiful interpreters…” (Hey, we Spokane interpreters ARE gorgeous.)

And fingerspelling. Our older generation is known for spelling out words, perhaps grammatically incorrect at times, but you get the idea. We need to acknowledge the ethos of those words. “I A-M R-E-S-T-L-E-S-S V-E-R-Y. F-A-T-I-G-U-E-N-E-S-S.” Of course, I interpret, “I’ve been feeling quite restless and fatigued.” To do otherwise would be a great injustice to his grandness.

But the exquisite formality was not limited to the board room. The valued member we lost this weekend brought it with him, kept it with him like a silk pocket handkerchief in a suit, when he would go to the hospital for the various procedures he needed and for which I had the honor of interpreting. For example, during the exhaustive but necessary nurse questioning that happens prior a procedure, ”What meds are you taking? Hmmmm, I’m not familiar with the color of pill…you don’t remember the name? What is your blood pressure? Your family history? Any family member have this, that, and the other?” he would respond respectfully, in the best and most honorable way he could.

And to the question, “Any skin problems?”

“J-U-S-T W-R-I-N-K-L-E-S,” he eloquently spelled. “J-U-S-T W-R-I-N-K-L-E-S.”

Mr. H. Orator. Storyteller. I will miss you. Go in Peace.

LL, 3/16/2009. Prevail.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Statistically You Live Longer If You Reside Close to Where You Grew Up

In the midst of feral forests and swollen swamps
45 miles past any townlife,
the Kentucky house sits,
a shell-like corpse,
rheumy windows staring.
Encased within its walls, an old log cabin
dating back a century and a half,
brittle bones lining the main room
held together by dry ligaments of lath.
Light lopes across cracked walls
as if to escape the beams, welt-like scars,
that mar the ceiling.
Clogged pipes like blocked arteries
drive us outside to shit
ever returning the parasites to their earth.
Ancient jars of blood and water,
long rotted fruit in cement shards,
lay broken on pantry shelves.
Outside, the lone tenant lurks,
a black cat, granite eyes glaring,
her back leg hanging by a thread.

LL, 3/14/2009. Prevail.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bumping Up Against Our Limitations

I have interpreted in many high risk settings where potential danger constantly lurks. All-male inpatient treatment facilities with on-edge guys in varying stages of detox, the downtown jail, correctional facilities where officers tell you from the get-go that you are on your own if an emergency takes all manpower, and the emergency psych ward at two in the morning. But recently, I sat in the back of a navy blue PT Cruiser whose deaf 85-year-old driver (with cataracts, mind you) tried to pass the driving test. Easily distracted, he squinted and marveled at the huge berms of snow, optimistically backed up and made turns without looking around (arthritic neck, he informed us), never driving above 15 miles per hour. “Straight ahead! Straight ahead!” I futilely signed to him as per the examiner’s instruction via the rearview mirror (which he never looked at). After 20 minutes of my own life passing before my eyes, I breathed a huge sigh of relief as he pulled into the final parking spot safely.

He simply wanted the license so he could drive himself to his favorite fishing holes.

Limitations. Literally and figuratively bumping up against our weaknesses.

Facing our frailties. Difficult no matter one’s age and experience, sighted or cataracted, hearing or deaf.

(By the way, he was not issued the license. Whew.)

LL, 3/10/2009. Prevail.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Way of the Moth

Warm greasy water runs
through my fingertips.
She stands, belly swollen
from recent delivery, supported
by the refrigerator seeping blood
and water. I watch the man
kneel in its brown sludge
as her shoulders sag
and black circles coagulate beneath her eyes.
His fingers work the torn fabric,
stretching the soaked cloth
in a futile effort to contain the mess.
Before me the sink
is a junkyard of dirty dishes.
I wipe the trickle of water
on the window curtain where
a glimmer of light chokes through.

LL/3/7/2009. Prevail.