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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ain't She Sweet?

Sweet does not draw me as a personal trait.

As a taste it does, too much.

But as a human characteristic?

Oh, spare me.


Sweet women's soft falsetto voices

show they are no threat.

They hide their nature--from you

as well as from themselves.

Give me bitter or sour,

gut-wrenched seers and seekers,

happy or even unhappy in their skins

but honest and open about it.


Don't coat the kernel of self

in an M&Ms shell.

Give me no pastel sugar-robed almonds.

I want what is, not some smooth-surfaced

slick-willy version.


When I go,

no one will say, '"She was such a sweet old lady."

You can take that to the bank!


Copyright 2014 Ann Tudor

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ah, Age, Where Is Thy Sting?

Here's the story of the shock I received last week. We have a home freezer in the little room off the kitchen. When I label items for the freezer I write the name of the food (cooked kabocha squash, for example) and the date on a slip of paper. Well, a torn half of a Library of Congress card, if you really want to know (of which we still have, after 35 years, 10 boxes). I then insert a corner of the paper between the plastic container and its lid.


When I write the date on this card, I put just month and year. In the olden days, when the first two digits of the year were one and nine, I could simply scrawl "Mar 96." But once the century changed, I found it necessary to add an apostrophe so that the date reads "Mar '10". Otherwise the numerals for the year can be mis-read as the numerals for a day—i.e., March 10—with no indication of the year.


Have you followed this so far? Well, last week I realized that this annoyance—having to add the extra little stroke of the apostrophe—is not going to go away any time soon. In the back of my unthinking mind was the expectation that in a year or two I'd be able to do without the apostrophe. My moment of revelation came when I looked the situation squarely in the face and had to admit that I will not be free of that apostrophe until the year 2032. That is to say, every year until then could be—if I failed to add the apostrophe—misconstrued as a day of the month rather than a year. For freezer clarity, I will be adding that apostrophe until 2032.


That's 20 years from now! Twenty years in which anything at all can happen but at the end of which I will incontestably be 20 years older than I am now. As I write this, I find myself stringing out my sentences, adding phrases, using two or even four words when one would do, in a vain attempt to avoid putting this down: I will be, in 2032, 95 years old. Good grief!


Oh, come now. There's no need to be dramatic. But the fact is, if I want to reach the point at which I no longer have to add the apostrophe to the dating of my freezer foods, I will have to stick around until I am 95. Given how much that apostrophe annoys me, I think it will probably be worth it--assuming that I still have a freezer, a room off the kitchen, and a house, when I am 95.



Copyright 2014 Ann Tudor

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Throwing Open the Windows

To throw open the windows is to reveal

the months'-worth of dirt covering the sills.

Am I Mrs. Clean that it is the dirt

   that attracts my notice

rather than the sweet breeze, lilac-scented,

   floating through the screen?


Is it my responsibility, this dirt?

My fault that I cannot see the forsythia

   for the fustiness?

The dirt is in my eye.

The air assaults me, raising discord

   and an inharmonious argument:

which came first, the dust or the guilt?

Which will demand my attention first:

the cleaning or the enjoying?

Can you have one without the other?


Can you open the windows,

see the dirt,

then walk out the door

   without a backward glance?

After all, the dirt, like the poor,

   is always with us.


But spring is fleeting.

Open tulips overnight turn blowsy and lose petals,

lilacs fade and revert to ordinary shrubness.

Delicate breezes become hot,

muggy days loom.


The poet already said it:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.


The dirt can wait.

Copyright 2014 Ann Tudor

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Ancient Mariner's Sleepless Night

Okay! Hands up, everyone who wants to hear the story of my sleepless night. No rush. I'll wait.


No hands? No one wants to hear? The story of my yawning night just makes you yawn? Hard cheese, for here it is.


I turned off the light at ten, having spent a lovely ninety minutes getting into Ian Rankin's most recent Rebus book. And I fell asleep almost instantly. Isn't that good?


At 12:38 (don't you just love digital clocks? Without the digital I might have said "at about 12:30"; but this way I can be exact). At 12:38 I woke up. Dear me, I have to pee. So I did. I padded back to bed in what passes for the dark in our urban setting, where streetlights and spotlights and various other outdoor lights afford us 24 hours of daytime.


And I crawled back into bed. No instant sleep this time. My mind began traveling through the minutiae of the day past and the days to come: a conversation with my son, a reminder to myself to call middle child on Friday, her fiftieth birthday; a complete wardrobe search (mental) for just the right thing to wear for my upcoming reading and then a different right thing to wear on Sunday evening for the Music Toronto fundraiser at Scaramouche (the secret delight I'd been clutching to my bosom ever since we reserved our spots).


Having revisited each of these topics interminably, I had the abrupt revelation that I wasn't even making an effort to fall asleep. I was just fretting. So I made a conscious effort: I relaxed. I breathed. I followed each breath in and out with my scatty mind, willing it to stick around and not go investigating the shallows of my being.


I breathed. I counted breaths. I breathed, pausing after every exhale. I recited a four-line mantra with four successive breaths. Again. Again.


At 1:30 I called a halt. I was not sleepy. And no, I had not indulged in caffeine that day. It was not my fault!


I wish I were the kind of person who can work at night. I might have begun editing and sorting the pieces for my reading, and then I could have put my corrections into the computer. I could have cleaned that computer/crafts room, its table piled high with rubber stamps, gel pens, and folder after folder of essays from the past and present that I don't know how to file. I could have gone to the kitchen and whipped up a batch of gluten-free cookies. I could have lifted myself from the bed and gone to meditate.


Instead, I got up, wrapped myself in my oversized dark blue velour robe, and took my glasses and Ian Rankin into the media room, the only place upstairs where I can sit comfortably and read (except for my bed, of course, but the light would inevitably wake up my husband). So I read, immersing myself in the goings-on of Rebus, the brilliant but dysfunctional and authority-averse Edinburgh cop (now officially retired but back by popular demand). He is an over-the-hill scamp. You keep wanting to tell him to shape up! But his methods work; he catches the bad guys. I devoured the latest Rebus until 3 a.m.


At last, I thought, I must be tired. I went back to bed, setting the alarm this time because with missed sleep I couldn't count on waking up on my own. That was at 3. At 4 I still had not been asleep. I got up and rubbed a sleep-friendly essential oil on the back of my neck.  At 4:30 (that digital clock is so efficient) I was still awake.


Some time after 4:30 I drifted into a non-restful sleep, from which I was dragged at 6:15 into a semblance of wakefulness.


Now there. That wasn't so painful was it? You heard the whole thing and didn't even fell asleep during it because my narration was enthralling. But next time, you might want to move away from me before my bony claw catches your sleeve and holds fast while I relate some future story of sleeplessness in Toronto.



Copyright 2014 Ann Tudor