Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Peeling Away The Irritants - Eagerness Necessarily Counteracts Edification

Patience - this is not my typical type of blog entry.
thanks Karen, Alexis and Michelle for helping me pull this together

Until yesterday, only the most basic necessities were out of boxes. Three weeks ago, the only furniture in our house was a double bed, a dining room table and six very uncomfortable chairs.

Every weekend is another battle in The Great Ikea War.  In this war, the Americans challenge the Swedish Ikea designers for the right to have a sane and organized home.   For three weekends, we have been victorious in minor battles and skirmishes!  It is our sincerest belief that the war can be won. Now - if we could only be successful in getting them to stock the items which we want - we'll really be living!

The crunch came this weekend. I've been scurrying around trying to get ready for Imani's visit.  It has been difficult.  Just because something is in a current catalogue doesn't mean that it is:
A. in stock,
B. was in stock when the catalogue was published or
C. was not discontinued at the time of printing.  

And, no, they don't care whether or not they promoted something to you that was entirely fictional.   And, yes, they are ever so polite when they calmly look into your eyes and say “bugger off” - in ever so more eloquent corporate sanctioned verbiage.

England has such a high slacker rate.   So, I've been amusing myself by
making up acronyms. I have to make sense of this culture. I have to make sense of this world I’m in right now.

I think N.H.S. should really stand for National Hangover Syndrome.  The
country - as a whole - is woefully affected by N.H.S. This disorder is brought on by serious cases of A.S.S. with a side complication of P.L.U.M.S. Aggravated Serf Syndrome with Petty Little Underpaid Minion Syndrome.

A.S.S. / P.L.U.M.S. attempt to medicate their unhappiness with massive quantities of alcohol thereby contributing to N.H.S. which in turn makes everyone even unhappier.

I encounter A.S.S./ P.L.U.M.S. with such frequency that it now has the power to wreck my day. Because, for some reason, I am unable to muster the anger necessary to stick in my thumb and relieve them of their problem.

I think my ignorance of their laws is the root. We Americans are so full of ourselves. We want what we want when we want it. If you tell us we can have something and then have the audacity not to have it, we’ll sue your mo*fo*a** just for giggles.


Tell a mother standing in the freezing rain with a baby that she can’t get on a bus? She’ll put that baby out on the porch the rest of the evening until it gets pneumonia and then sue the bus company for negligence! Yes, we foolish, foolish people have forced corporations to serve us. No, I really mean it.


Take 2 hours to work on thinking about opening a bank account with clients (who have a toddler in their lap.) Then tell them their lease is not sufficient proof of address because the landlord is not a "known entity" to the bank. Then look at the London Electric bill.  That’s good. But - oh dear - London Electric dropped the "jr." from Norman's name.  Therefore, it is not proof of Norman's address. Because the bill is not "in his name." Then tell us to “fix it” and come back in 3 weeks. (When they know durn well that it took 3 months to get our first bill.)

So - I’m sick of people who are suffering from A.S.S. / P.L.U.M.S. But, I don’t know how to sue. But, more importantly - it brings home a lesson my Dad always taught me.

“If this is the one and only way a person feels powerful in their life, well, why not let them experience it. What have you got to lose? Let it roll off your back. Let them have one minute of control over their world. After all, you are privileged enough not to have to behave this way.”

And I find - patience can not be learned in 2 months. This is a good lesson.

Peeling Away The Irritants - Eagerness Necessarily Counteracts Edification

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

For Mama Agnes

on her transition

see how the flower stretches
to its fullest. drinking all the light

then each petal falls away
in the dewy night. leaving

there a pod of seeds
a pocket full of hope.

Monday's Lesson

thought I was a fish
vibrant in aqua
glittery delight
plucked gasping thrashing
raging desperate
thrust forces new breath.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Sunday’s Lesson

Ants and children do not care
about buses. They trample
on timetables; scuttle to and fro;
agitated and elated by crackers
and crumbs from old ladies shoes.

Buses do not care
about ants or children. They zoom
screeching to their stop; accelerate
without mercy for packages,
little legs or brittle frames

eager to break.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Thursday's Lesson

How I Am Learning To Love It Here

Baby cow has become our very best friend.
S/he’s always home.
S/he raises her head when we greet her.
“Hi cow!” We chirrup.

We like her androgynous.
Donkey’s bits are always a little out of control
and he seems needy.

The days spin into a timeless grey-white airborne mass
heaving against the sky. It is always threatening.

We sat by the pond today for an hour and a half.
Threw bits of straw into the algae covered water.
Mostly, the sun shined on us. We rewarded him
by singing a sun song. It helps to stay positive.

It is cozy. Perhaps transcendent. This very insular child space is close kin to zen.

When we ran out of bits of dried grass, we ventured up
an Earth berm. How jealous I am of the bees. So fat and
weightless gobbling sweets all day.

Not wanting to disturb my chubby brethren, we approached the forest (patch of trees) seeking

a stick. There we found a murdered
cherry tree. Corpse already picked over.
And helped ourselves to her bones.

He poked the pond. I wove her twigs
into small sculptures with tall grass and long iris leaves all of whom had narrowly escaped the mower.
I laid them out on the dock. Seven memorials.
Then, Winston set them afloat

before we went home. To sleep.

Monday, May 16, 2005

For Once, London Makes My Life Easy

overcast day
brightened. Tried
to hop a bus

to playground with most favored status.
usual mood - rain threatened
missed the bus.

clouds blow away.
on the horizon
farm bus shines.

boy babbles. animal
sounds. announces his destination
to everyone. wrong bus.

farm closed just another manic
I forecast disappointment.
storm pauses. bus hurtles

us towards despair.
walking the wooded park path,
closer to the animals than if we’d gone inside

son glows. laughs. runs.
sleeps on the bus home.

NOTE: Most days, I meander through the streets of Hackney utterly convinced that the British hate children. Other days, I have made the huge faux pas of traveling beyond Hackney at an hour when the real citizens want to do something important - like slog ale at the local pub after work.

Mothers of small children should not be abroad at these times. We take up space. We move slowly. Sometimes, our children display our singular lack of parenting skills by being noisy. (Let me define “noisy” here as singing “The Wheels On the Bus” loudly, reciting the first stanza of Wm. Blake’s “Tyger, Tyger,” or sometimes - and in my case rarely - being unhappy.)

In the States, I have never seen an adult purposefully frown at a baby. Maybe they give a “neutral-oh-shit-please-don’t-cry-look.” But, never a bona fide declaration of absolute and utter disdain, disapproval, hatred. Or at least not to a happy, singing toddler who happens to be at your side. Typically, the response to the gurgling, happy, laughing baby is a smile or a wink or a tiny, shy wave. In The States, people assume, if the baby is happy, we make a community effort to maintain that state-of-being. (Otherwise, we all suffer.)

But, I have noticed something different here during the initial duration of my sentence here. The British are absolutely brilliant at planning for idiocy. They plan for those amongst my parenting ranks who are not engaged. They plan for stupid parents who sit at the playground downing beer. They plan for children who don’t listen. And their play-spaces are designed accordingly. Much of the play equipment here would have been banned in The States years ago. We sue for our own stupidity far too often. It is a joy watching a child accept the challenge of figuring our his balance, scale a hill, explore a wooded patch. Thank you Britain for this.

The British still have a level of trust in the citizenship which feels glorious. There is a farm in the middle of our neighborhood. In the States, the animals would be behind 8 foot fences. If it was closed - then -suffer Mom and Dad for failing to know the rules.

Imagine getting on a bus. Your 2 year old is so excited to go see the animals. You walk five blocks after the bus stop. Your toddler is talking about seeing the animals the entire way. Then - you get to the animals and it is closed.

Here, they do not design places to be impenetrable by litigious assholes who will let their children throw rocks at animals and then wonder why the animals bit their children. Here, they design their public spaces for respectful, kind citizens who care to see something pastoral as a restful moment from their busy, city lives. Winston didn’t even know that the farm was closed today. It is so well integrated into the overall design of the park. Even though it was closed, he thought he had been to the farm.

Thank you, London, you made my life easier for the first time today.

Friday, May 13, 2005


Twinkle, twinkle little star.
better watch out where you are

The Black Hole’s coming just for you.
If you’re not careful, you’ll go through.

Twinkle, twinkle little star.
Better tone up who you are.

+ + +

Lidl’s* VS Asda/Walmart

Even though Asda's is incorrect
politically, my Nigerian British friend
refuses to shop at the market
one block away from her house.
Too many nebulous almost Europeans
up in the joint.

(Mostly from that one nation which diss’d Bush
before Shock & Awe. Kept him out
of their borderland on the hope the E.U.
would let them pretend to be White

in the World economy. ) These same refugees
shove their way to the till.
Acting as if she isn't there. Unlike fat,
if you don't exercise
your White privilege it disappears.

Deanne says she’s wondered
if she becomes invisible,
little, a vague hint of a Black hole.
The way these brownish folks pretend
their place in line is always ahead of her.

The way she tries not to suck them in.

+ + +

pat a cake, pat a cake
butcher’s man.

kill the white drake
as fast as you can.

pluck him,
and clean him,

and disembowel he.
so I can cook up

a lidl freedom.

* pronounced Little’s

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Black. Clipped. Memory of flesh
heaving to my beak’s yanks

and gashes. Calculated wide
wings once circled an eternal

festival of gore and entrails.
Patient. Deliberate. Men

kill. Ravens fall. Men rise.
We drop. Snatch an ascent

colored crimson. Mud dark
against turquoise sky. Skimming

the end of empires.
Hear me?

Monday, May 09, 2005

U.K. Blood

because people have asked

Note: Winston is back to his normal bouncy self. Still needs to gain some weight back.

Once upon a time, some oversensitive, child protection lunatic "with A LOT of unmet needs" became so powerful that they were able to advocate successfully “on behalf of children” regarding the methods by which any penetration of the skin occurs. This person has managed to implement policies which "protect children and their dignity."

Here in the U.K., sticking a needle into a child is a long and involved process. This process was designed "to reduce pain and trauma." First, they put an irritating white cream over the area where the needle will enter. Then, they place a clear sticky Band-Aid over the area to hold the cream inside. The cream turns the child's skin red. It becomes an inflamed puffy dot wherever the cream has touched. I am told, "This is not a reaction. It is normal and means the cream is working. " At first it is itchy, then the area becomes "numb for up to four hours." (Winston's arm was so numb that he screamed and writhed in pain when they finally got around poking him (repeatedly) with sharp instruments. And each time we pulled the tape off, it was so sticky his skin raised up a good 3 centimeters.)

IV's are administered only in extreme cases because for children - it is so "humiliating" to be "immobilized" and not have "freedom of movement" for their arm. Maybe they just thought I was a stupid American. But - this is what I was told by health professionals. You see, sick British children are so exceptionally dignified that to compromise that stoic, reserved air of composure would be the greatest indignation. Yes, yes, oh yes, this is exactly what I observed in the emergency room.

Blood is drawn in a most archaic method by a doctor (sometimes a nurse.) There are no trained phlebotomists here. They do not use a straight needle. (It's far too dangerous, not to mention scary. Oh yeah - I forgot effective and fast.) Instead, they insert some sort of tube to which a syringe is attached. Blood is drawn by pumping the syringe until you build up enough pressure to get what you need. (Repeat as necessary.)

I get the feeling that they don't draw much blood. Because, the most competent of all the doctors we saw, had to stick Winston about 8 times. Four to put in the IV. Four times in the other arm to draw blood.

If they need more blood - for example on the next day - they can't use the existing shunt to draw new blood. (Blood clots too quickly when they use what what I call "the oil pump method.”) So - the process must begin all over again. (Burning goop, sticky tape, sticking, sticking, sticking...jackpot! Red gold!!!! We've found blood! )

A sympathetic nurse who had been trained in "American techniques" told me she hated the process. She said that "by the time a kid is 3, they see the goop coming and begin screaming immediately." (The tape and goop method is also used for immunizations.)

The whole blood drawing process takes about 45 minutes. What is supposed to reduce pain, trauma and indignity is a dehumanizing, agonizing exercise in dominating your child so the professionals can do their job. In the U.S., I’ve had Winston’s blood drawn in five minutes. Sometimes, if I distract him, the phlebotomists are so fast he doesn’t even realize what’s happened.

But, I suppose swift, merciless, efficiency is more cruel to children. After all, it doesn’t prepare them for life.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Color Me New

None of us are speaking
English. Pigeons

all up in the cafe.
Ungloved handling

of food. Open
air jumble.

Flies on meat
under an awning

seems sanitary
to some. Repulsive.

Same old same ol’.
Toffee and coffee

don't mix right
in the cup.

Taffy stretched thin
these colors separate

in a so easy snap.

The “Blacks” will rarely make eye-contact with me. Women who look like my Grandmother take me in, sweep their eyes over Winston and scowl. I had one woman ask me point blank - God(dess) bless her soul - if my husband was Black. When I said, yes, she warmed to me immediately, even as her eyes swept over the boy trying to figure out how Black...

The Indians and Middle-Eastern folks smile, get acquainted and look the dreads over wondering where this fits into this European highly defined strata of color. When they realize I’m American, I pass into a whole new world of acceptable contact...even if Black, African Black, Africa touched Black, Nubian Black before Greece browned the Black, some kind of kinfolk Black, Black.

Money Black. Euro-Black. Black to bucks Black. Snap. Color me something without borders.

Islington Sunday

hijab askew. drinking,
gulping this sunny sand
pit only through fingertips -

toddler girl moans, writhes

thrashes, rolls in grit -
reveling in her body
and Spring’s first heat.

+ + +

brown bud opens her mouth to laugh.
clinging wet shorts. mud stained bottom

sand mosiac adorns round stomach
baby fat shifting to bloom

naked one last summer.