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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Quick! Pick It Up!

If you drop it, pick it right back up. Believe in the three-second rule: no germs attach to it as long as you pick it up within three seconds. It helps if no one else sees you do it, because sometimes there can be a lot of judgment ("You're not going to put that in your mouth after it's been on the floor, are you?"). Well, it depends on the floor, doesn't it?


If it's the floor of a subway station, I'm with the critic: don't put it in your mouth. That's not a floor I'd trust. The germs on that floor never heard of the three-second rule, and if you drop something they're all over it like white on rice, faster than you can shake a stick at them (or in two shakes of a lamb's tail—whichever is quicker).


Back to that subway floor. No, we've finished with that one, having agreed that if you do pick it right back up from the subway station floor you put it right straight into the trash, where it will touch no one's lips.


Other floors? Are there floors you can trust? Lorna comes to shine up my house every other week, but in the days before Lorna started coming I would leave my kitchen floor unmopped for longer than most people would. Longer than I care reveal publicly. The three-second rule would apply for the first few weeks after I mopped it, but I'd reduce it to the two-second rule after a month. And the one-second rule after that. And then we'd reach a point where it would be better not to drop anything at all on the floor because the floor was alive and would make quick work of whatever it was you had dropped. You'd want to say "drop it" to the floor as you might to a dog, but you knew that whatever you dropped at that stage was beyond help. Leave it.


And then I'd mop the floor, grudgingly, and the cycle would begin anew.


But now Lorna comes and the three-second rule is a safe measure. Other floors? You'll have to tell me about your own floors. Will the three-second rule apply at your house?


What about the street? The sandbox? We're supposed to eat a peck of dirt while we're alive. I think the idea is to inoculate ourselves by ingesting the very germs we are so frightened of. Brush off that lollipop and put it back in the toddler's hand. (More to the point, why is that toddler eating a lollipop in the first place?)


Ice cream cone? Don't bother picking that up. Just let it melt on the sidewalk, a monument to a child's unhappiness, a booby trap to the unwary walker (especially the fools who go barefoot on city streets). I've always wondered about ice cream cones on the sidewalk within ten feet of the ice cream shop. Did the poor kid get a replacement? Or were the parents the stiff-necked, all-rules kind who said, "It's your own fault. Next time be more careful!" and was the child forced to watch through her tears as her siblings flaunted their own double-dip cones: chocolate mint paired with rocky road.


Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Writing with the Other Hand

Here comes the right brain,

appearing on paper through the agency

of my left hand.


Always a surprise, it is,

to read what flows (or dribbles)

down that under-used limb, the left arm.

Here it is, chosen once more to perform

its weekly task of allowing the poor right brain

to speak.

Sound off, right brain!

Here's your photo op,

your fifteen minutes of fame:

the right brain on parade!

(1-2-3-4 sound off. Sound-Off!)


I am amazed to see how these lines string out,

how these words go nowhere

while still making a pretense of writing.

Could I get more self-conscious than this?

More tied up in Gordian knots of self-awareness?

Whose sword was it that cut through

the Gordian knot?

Surely Hercules.

Come on down, Herc!

I need you.



Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Making Something of This

What do you make of this your life,

my dear?

You started long ago gathering experiences,

as does everyone.

At what point do you consolidate them?

Evaluate them?

And then—because gathering and evaluating

are but two legs of the three-legged stool--

then you commence the making.


I believe it's about time.

Well, it's not about time,

for time (thank goodness we found out

in time)

is irrelevant here.

It is time to pull it all together

with screws and glue

(nails will not do)

pull it together in its final

(is it ever really final?)


and say, pointing with modest pride,

this is what I have made.


And hope no one minds

that your three-legged stool


and must lean against

--ah, lean against—

a support whose need you had not foreseen:

the supporting wall of faith.

In . . . ?


Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Impatient Stones

What a turnaround, eh?

It switches your point of view in a New York minute,

for you always pictured stones

as the epitome of patience.

Sentient, yes. That part isn't new.

But impatient? Longing for the passage of time

to grind them into more mobile sand and dust?


Notice that they trust, these stones,

Knowing that the grinding will take place.

It's just a question of time!

In time, the Rockies may tumble,

Gibraltar may crumble,

and the rigidity of rock becomes a shift of sand,

a blowing of dust.

All it takes it time.


Imagine the stones' incessant yearning

to move, depart, dance,

to join the motion of life.


For me, stones, you suffice.

I love you as you are.

But now, having recognized your yearning

I view you afresh and feel your impatience!

I thought you exemplified steadfastness.

But it turns out you are as unreconciled as we are

to what is.

Like us, you lean toward

the unknown and untried.

I wish you success in your quest

for atomization.

That is, for your sake I hope you get what you want.


But take caution from us volatile humans and

be careful what you yearn for.

Once you have achieved pulverization,

your grains of sand will never come together again.

Will you not miss your heavy self?

Will you not regret what was lost?


Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor

Sunday, August 2, 2015


I used to think there was a secret plan to life, and that I was right in the middle of it. What I thought I knew was that the world was getting better and better. Part of this idea came from the era during which I grew up, part from my experience, and part from my mother's incurable optimism about her children.


I was nine when World War II ended. Our lives quickly returned to normal. We took down the heavy black-out curtains over the windows. Ration cards disappeared. And I vividly remember the opening of a tiny accessories shop across Franklin Street from my father's newspaper offices. I went to the shop soon after it opened. I don't know why I had money that day. We didn't get a regular allowance, and if I did have money I spent it on a bowl of ice cream and a fountain Coke (ten cents for the combination). But I did go to this shop and I bought a twelve-inch-square printed silk scarf from among the collection of new multi-colored scarves. I had never seen such a gathering of color, and it was hard to make my choice. This, to me, from my sheltered childhood, epitomized the end of the War. (In case you are wondering how we used those little scarves, here's how: we folded them on the diagonal and rolled them to make a ribbon of scarf, which we tied into a jaunty knot whose ends stuck out over the open collar, turned up at the back, of our white blouses. So chic.)


By the time I left university, the world was my oyster—the oyster of all recent graduates of that era, with job opportunities available to all comers. I'm not saying that I took any great advantage of them, but that was my own fault. They were there. And it was clear to me that there would always be jobs.


During a biology class at university, the professor (tall, with very dark hair, this much I remember) one day talked about ecology. About how everything fit together. The trees inhaling what we exhaled, the oceans efficiently cleaning up all the effluents we pumped into them. Everything worked well. His name was not Dr. Pangloss, but it might as well have been, and we were all his eager Candides. This was a few years before Rachel Carson burst that particular balloon.


At home, my mother gave each of her six children the idea that we were a special family. We always did this or we never did that because we were the Johnson children. She expected a bright future for each of us, and she would brook no hesitation on our parts. It was expected that we would perform well in the world. Bad things might happen to others (although she preferred not to think about that) but certainly not to the Johnson children.


I bought into her future just as I embraced my professor's sanguine view of man and Nature interacting forever in this best of all possible worlds. I bought into the Eisenhower era's prosperity and optimism. After university I noticed that parents now had the opportunity to learn about the psychology of families and children. All this learning would pay off. Each generation would be smarter about child-rearing and human relationships than the previous one had been. People were capable of learning and growing and eventually we would all be so wise (though I didn't expect this to happen right away) that there would be no more wars, no conflict, no bad seed.


Not only was my mother misguided, but so also were my teachers. Life turned out to be even more of a muddle for later generations than it had been for mine.


Any lingering optimism on my part is regularly tempered by reality. (Old but still true joke: the difference between an optimist and a pessimist? The pessimist is better informed.)



Copyright © 2015 Ann Tudor