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necessary whispers

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Necessary Whispers

Mad Men: A Little Bit Peggy

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For years, I have reserved this blog for writing poetry and essays that reflect random images, thoughts and emotions that I either experienced in the moment of the day on which they were written, or as reflections of previous times. The objective of the blog has been to capture those thoughts that threaten to fall, like crumbs, to the floor of my mind rather than allowing them to fall and be forgotten. Today, I would like to break my pattern to write about a television show—a piece of art—that has moved me as an artist, a writer, a woman and a human being: Mad Men.

 

Over the years various people have told me I remind them of Leslie Knope, from the series Parks and Rec. I understood the comparison as I, too, was a driven, personable and passionate woman, as well as emotionally connected to everything in which I was involved. While I still possess those qualities, I am not sure I possess them with as much fervor as we see in Ms. Knope.  Even so, I think that was a good comparison at the time the show was airing.  Then, something happened. A few of my dreams were extinguished, the vision I had for my life began to blur and I walked through a series of trials that, perhaps, left me with more wisdom but seemed to shift my perspective on life.

 

Today, I think I am more like the character of Peggy from Mad Men.

 

Peggy, the secretary turned Copy Chief, says in season 2, episode 13, “Well, one day you’re there and then all of a sudden there’s less of you. And you wonder where that part went, if it’s living somewhere outside of you, and you keep thinking maybe you’ll get it back. And then you realize, it’s just gone.

 

Thank you, writers of the show, for this simple yet profound sentiment. As the character of CS Lewis says in the film Shadowlands, “We read to know we’re not alone.” In this case, as I watched and listened to this episode of Mad Men, I suddenly felt not alone. The fact that a team of writers, producers and a director found the line worthy of giving to Elizabeth Moss to interpret, means the idea is universal enough to share with a large audience. And I, sitting in my living room in a small town in the Midwest did, indeed, receive it as truth.

 

The past year, or so, I have been struggling with the realization that I have changed. While I don’t think the changes are necessarily negative, I can see that I have lost a certain innocence, idealism and naiveté. What seems to be shaking me more acutely is that as I have changed, so has my self-awareness is any given situation. In other words, I have changed and so has world around me . . . but which came first? As we step into situations we have the ability to choose whether we will be a thermostat or a thermometer; what we choose depends on our will, as well as those intangible parts of ourselves such as confidence, certainty and security. For years, I was a thermostat. More recently in life, I feel like a thermometer . . . perhaps because as my life has been shaken, so have those intangibles I have listed above.

 

Recently, I had a conversation with a man who told me that the world is black and white. At first, I agreed with him. The world is, indeed, black and white inasmuch as there are rights and wrongs, an up and a down, good and evil, and dark and light. My whole life I have agreed with this sentiment. However, immediately following our conversation I began to wonder whether that is actually true. A side note about me: in the midst of any given conversation I may appear to be casually listening and discussing the topic at hand, but I assure you, I don’t take anything lightly, especially if the topic turns to something substantial that potentially connects to something meaningful to me. But I digress . . .

 

Life is black and white, until it is grey.

 

One does not need to set down her morals to write such a thing. What she does need to do is conduct an analysis in which she compares the way life “should” be with the way it often is. The older I get and the more I see and experience the world, the more vivid the juxtaposition between the ideal and reality. For example, it is an ideal that a young woman grow up in a household with her biological mother and father, that she follows her time at home with a journey to university where she chooses the career she wishes to pursue, finds a sturdy young man to marry, and then leaves university to begin meaningful work, have children and maintain that lifestyle until she leaves this earth at a reasonably old age. Within this scenario, at least a million small choices are represented that also reflect the ideals of integrity, consistency, loyalty, and . . . good fortune.

 

People are not pillars. We are not erected one day to stand the test of time and torrid weather for the sake of keeping the building of our lives sturdy and straight. People are more like brick houses, laid one brick at a time. If a few of the bricks are not properly set in terms of placement and/or insufficiently mortared, the house may stand but it may also crumble in places.

 

I think that is what I have been learning about myself, as well as others whose stories I have had the privilege to discover: we change. We grow and we shrink. We meet the goals get before us and we fail to meet them. We are kind and loving, and we are selfish and cruel: sometimes, all in the same day.

 

Parts of me seem to have crumbled to the ground. But parts of me still stand. And I am beginning to think that just as there are people who enjoy exploring buildings whose peeling plaster and creaky wood floors exhibit beautiful imperfections and the marks of time, there are those who don’t mind engaging with people like me who have lost interest in aesthetics alone. What I desire is true connection, which can only come through transparency, vulnerability and the willingness to be present with another human being, however flawed.

 

Perhaps it is time for me to stop considering the parts of myself that fell to the ground along the way. Perhaps there was a time to grieve those things and now is the time to reconcile what I thought might be with what is. I think the secret to moving forward is being willing to reassess yourself as you are today so you can move ahead with your whole heart instead of walking through life half-heartedly carrying the weight of yesterday’s goals, dreams and self.

 

Copyright: Jill Szoo Wilson

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The Unforgiving Dog

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(The adorable boy you see here in my dog, Mr. Bates.  He is named after my favorite character from the BBC television show Downton Abbey.)

 

My dog will not forgive me

Though I asked him many times

With treats in my hands

Bacon in my pockets

I have pleaded,

Begged

And he

Sits silently,

Resigned.

 

 

“What must I do?”

I have pined

Looking for the clue

Some kind of cue

To begin my

Apology anew—

It does not come

Only a wag and

Stoic stares.

 

 

“Is this a staring contest?”

I have wondered

But I have yet

To speak the words—

I am afraid he

Will think me silly

Because contests

Are mostly born of

Human insecurity.

 

 

My dog will not forgive me

Though his water bowl is full

His leash is hot

With newly acquired sunshine

Gathered on the walk

We recently took,

An offering

My bribe to him,

“Please, let me off the hook.”

 

 

I now remind him of my faults

Repent and seek my peace

He sighs like a priest

Resting his chin on his hands

And wondering when

My tirade will find its end—

He sniffs

Licks the air

Then sighs into the floor.

 

 

“I guess I am a bore,”

I think

My shoulders fully slumped

I sink to sit before him, then

He jumps to his feet

Wiggles and leaps

Like a dancer with four left feet

“Finally,” he barks

Then rolls into my lap.

 

 

“But what about the times

I ignored you

forgot to adore you

when I stayed away too long

and scolded you for being wrong,

what about

my impatience,

when I chose not to be

gracious?”

 

 

He licks my hand

And lifts his paw,

“You humans don’t get it at all.”

Continuing, he reflects,

“We forgive right away

we never delay

because we remember

the value of living

and loving today.”

 

 

I feel quite embarrassed

I know he is right

I wasted time worrying

Mentally scurrying

Back to the past

Where all my faults sit

Like piles of vomit

I was willing to lick—

“You’re doing it again,” he winks,

“Just relax.”

 

copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

Inevitable Séance

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She drags her pencil at an angle

Lead falls against the page

It breaks apart

Slowly reaching the edge—

Splintered wood above

Paper below

Something new

Never before

It could be anything, or nothing,

She wipes dusted shrapnel

To the floor.

 

 

Touching but separate

Never one and always two

Like sky and horizon until

A tornado vacuums through

Pulling down and lifting

The edges

From above to below—

A little like chaos

A little like science

They meet in the middle,

Inevitable séance.

 

 

The ocean and the shore

Knew the game before

On the other side of yesterday

When rain poured

Through a sieve of clouds

First drenching

Then drowning the world

The ones whose eyes refused their faith

“Head up, this too shall pass,”

Soaked through and buried among

Unheard teeth shaped in hasty goodbyes.

 

 

One and one

A Daisy in a pot

One nourished by the sun

The other fed by the holding of

The purpose in

His shape made for

The shape within—

Holding side by side

Because the boundaries were set

Until shattered around,

Fragility amplified.

 

 

A single flame pierces the night—

Over there a cigarette

Held between the lips of one

Whose ambition dwindles in darkness

His soul furnished in sparseness

And holding hope for a single release

From the day

From the night

He holds the light

Smells it ignite

Burns through to midnight.

 

 

She drags her pencil at an angle

Creating something new

Still

Her one

And the one she draws

Will always be two—

Unless,

A tornado combines

The ocean pours right through

His muddy boot smashes

Or flames creep up the sides.

 

 

“It cannot be forced,”

She says to herself,

Words released on a familiar sigh

Echoing from the past

Swirling above the present

Atmosphere heavy with questions

Treading lightly but fast—

She stops her hand

Examines the line

Puts her pencil down

And looks at the time.

 

–copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

Photo Credit: Alessandro Sicioldr‘s piece entitled, “La Stanza Rossa.”  60x70cm – oil on wood.  If you would like to see more of Alessandro’s work, please visit his website and his Facebook page:  Alessandro’s Website , Alessandro’s Facebook Page .

 

Knowing Is the Only Knowing

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She put her hands above her face—

Fingers long and slender—

Extended her neck so she could see

Behind the shadow and under the moonlight

As though a longer neck would help her eyes

To focus.

 

 

It is funny the things we do

When we want to

See

What is real.

We stand up taller

Use a cloth to clean our glasses

Rub our eyelids and

Open them wide.

Perhaps

We are the only animals

To do such things

And the only animals that

Lie.

We have to make concessions.

 

 

He cupped his hands to the back of his ears—

Strands of hair got in the way—

Hid behind a tree so he could hear

The songs she sang to herself

As though his hands were gathering

The sound.

 

 

It is desperate the things we do

When we want to

Hear

What is real.

We bend at the waist

And strain our backs

We twist our necks and

Close our eyes to block out

The rest.

When we want to hear

A voice and

Presence of another

It is a choice.

We cannot rely on chance.

 

 

She lifted her nose toward the winter branches—

Her neck lay all the way back—

From inside the crook of an Oak

She could vaguely smell the cigar he smoked

The dampened mud rose to

Camouflage the scent.

 

 

It is urgent the things we do

When we want to

Smell

What is real.

We close our eyes

Soften our lips

Lift our nostrils

Like wisps of smoke

To conjure the

Air floating in invisible wafts

Around us

Brought down by

A spell wrought by the will

To discover the whole instead of a sliver.

 

 

He touched the soggy leaves under his shoes—

Buried his fingers all the way through—

To ask the earth if she was near

His fear was that he would not feel

Her footsteps

So he crawled until an indentation appeared.

 

 

It is passionate the things we do

When we want to

Feel

What is real.

We bend our knees

Put our faces to the ground

Cover the backs of our heads

With our hands

And roll our bodies down

As low as we

Can go

Because the

Earth will tell the truth

About how to lay ourselves low.

 

 

She kissed the back of his head—

He was kneeling in the mud—

Told him without words

That he was found

And to the ground

She sank beside him.

 

 

It is magnificent the things we do

When we want to

Taste

What is real.

We open our mouths

Let the edge of our

Tongues

Invite the textures

And the taste

The sweet

The sour

The bitter

The salt—

Nourished by the whole.

 

 

For a moment each of them broke

Like a glass

And their senses spilled

On the ground

Gravity let them fall around—

Sight and hearing,

Smells

Touch and

Taste

No longer necessary

Because when a thing is real

Knowing is the only knowing.

 

copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

Photo Credit: This poem was inspired by a sculpture created by German artist Isabell Kamp.  The sculpture is entitled, Past d.  If you would like to see more of her work, please visit her Facebook page and/or website: Isabella Facebook Page ,Isabell’s Website

Unencumbered

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She collected recollections

From the past

As though they were

Trinkets from a shop

Where antiques—

Roughly used and rusting—

Lay waiting,

Lay trusting

Their time would come again.

 

Again yesterday came

But with a different name

“Today”

So she sat with her

Treasures

Stoic and measured

With a grip not to lose

For if she loosened her hold

They may drip away.

 

Away from the darkness

Of her previous losses

She looked toward the light

Lost her sight

At the brilliance it held

Shuttered with fear

Melted with doubt

Stifled her silent shout

With a thought.

 

The thought

A question

Singed with intention

Smoking

Like the barrel of a gun

Prompting her

To run

Instead of stay—

But she stayed.

 

Stayed in the place

Where she planted the seeds

Grass to grow

To overthrow

The things it seemed

She could not let go

Like a patient

Patiently awaiting

Death.

 

Death that rides

On the back of loss

That stabs at the fear

Of drawing near

“Don’t move from here”

She whispered out loud

And hoped the desire to move

Would evaporate

Like a cloud.

 

Clouds of then

Filled the present

A fog in this room

Invaded by the presence

Of shadows—

Not men—

Only places

They may have been

Had they stayed.

 

Staying threatened her breath

As the air turned white

The longing for safety

Compromised

By this encroaching night

The fear of losing

Being lost from her sight

As a struggle to gain

Awoke to the fight.

 

Fighting for air

She stood to her feet

Considered her options:

Victory / Defeat—

Destruction seemed easy

To fail is so clean

Triumph unknown

Invites mystery:

Shrapnel of

The unforeseen.

 

Unforeseen was the way

Mighty was the day

When the roots that held

Were cut away

When her voice

Unvoiced

Found the breath to say,

“Tomorrow

is where my future—

unencumbered—

lay.”

 

copyright Jill Szoo Wilson

Photo Credit: This beautiful piece is by German artist Justine Otto.  Titled: Fourth Corner, 130 x 180 cm, oil on linen, 2013.  To view more of Justine’s work, please visit her website and Facebook page: Justine’s Website , Justine’s Facebook Page .

 

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