Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome to It 20)

I’ve been musing a lot lately about the assassination of John F Kennedy, 50 years ago this week. I have a poem on this site that deals obliquely with that time entitled The Waldorf Astoria (Family Album, New York, August 1963). But that date, November 22, 1963 has another significance. When I was a girl my father — a high school teacher — would get up first in the morning, letting my mom sleep in. He’d wake me around 7 a.m. and I’d go downstairs and put on the coffee water while he got ready showered, and shaved. However when I went downstairs I noticed the front door was ajar and since I didn’t have my glasses on I just thought it was strange, but probably was because  my parents had been out the night before and perhaps they just didn’t close it completely.

I asked my dad why the front door was open and my dad went into John Wayne/ The Protector  mode. Someone had broken into the house, gone upstairs into my parents bedroom, stolen my mother’s purse (what they didn’t take was strewn across the front lawn) and taken our car, a 1956 Packard. The thing that was really upsetting is that there was a knife with a 6 inch blade stuck in the front lawn.

As discombobulating as this event had been I thought, since I was in Jr. High School (what is now called middle school) that I had the Big Story to tell my classmates that day. And I did.  Until the P A system came on during math class and the Principal announced that a terrible tragedy had happened, our president had been shot….

If only my story had been the only story that day….

 

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome to It 19)

I returned from a whirlwind five days in New York City on September 20th (2 of which were spent traveling to and from.) Although I  didn’t quite get to do all that I wanted to, I had a spectacular time. I understand why it is truly the greatest city in the world. (one caveat, worst traffic — yes even worse the L A )

I gave a reading at the Cornelia Street Cafe on Sept 19th l. A great venue it has a vibe of, say, The Cavern before The Beatles really made it big.  It was very well attended, and folks were enthusiastic (what could be better than that?) In the audience was my cousin Lester and his wife Bonnie — wonderful to see them, my father was from NY, but since I was raised and have lived my life in L A I have not had the opportunity to spend much time nor get to know many of my east coast relatives. Following the reading the three of us went to a fantastic French restaurant across the street: Gigot I think the name was. I could have died and gone to heaven. I had boeuf bourgonion (how the heck DO you spell that?) that was so tender it fell off the fork, little pearl onions and carrots. I’m waxing poetic just thinking about it.

I was particularly fortunate to have been able to see Tennessee Williams’ Two Character  Play with Brad Dourif and Amanda Plummer. Knocked my sox off. Reminded why I’ve loved theater in the first place. It crackled with energy, with a soupcon of sly wit. I think I’ll never forget the moment when Plummer turns to Dourif after sizing him up and pronounces  “You look like a man with excellent credit.”

If, by chance, you make a living as a poet, you might find that aforementioned quote to be particularly appropriate. Signing off now. Over and Out.

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome To It 18)

I synthesize my life’s work daily as I prepare my manuscript of new and selected poems to come out next year from Red Hen Press. I am, indeed, very pleased but also very apprehensive. I search all old and half finished work as well as try to sniff out current work with promise.

It becomes daunting to finalize  — once and for all — all aspects of a relationship between myself and the page. Almost like a marriage (if I place a comma here, should I take out the line break), a contract.  Hundreds of words to remind myself about things I’d rather not think about. Hundreds of words from a career that began in 1968 as a freshman in college. Lots of words. Lots of poems.

 

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome to It 17)

Manipulating ye olde remote control and landed upon the opening sequence of a film I had not seen since it first was released in 1977: Saturday Night Fever. Why am I wasting my evening thinking about or, perhaps even worse, writing about a disco movie, you ask? I was ready to become all haughty and stuck up when I noticed the film was coming up on the tv guide —  and I didn’t have enough time to find something on my 500 channels to interest me — so, still surfing, the film began. My half-attention swiveled towards the tv and Jesus Christ (!) the Bee-Gees, and the camera keeping time with  John Travolta’s gait, and I had to watch.

Sure, it’s dated. The clothes are embarrassing. The way our lives have gone on, for good or ill, can be messy. Even mortifying. Watching the 1970s (what I can remember about it) can be downright terrifying. I often wonder how, why, am I still alive? I have done so much harm to others because of my own inability to believe in the possibility of happiness. If I could not feel something how could I imagine what it would be like?

 

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome To It 16)

Why I choose to live alone:

I can be as piggish as I want to be.
I can stay up all night watching Turner Classic Movies if I feel like it.
I have Sir Chumley of Amherst all to myself
Bon Bons in bed (guiltless).
Snore…
Room to move (womb to move?).
Get thee behind me mother!

 

The Mother’s Room
and this too is me
the dull sheen of purple jersey
daughter as crone
and behind that door
the mother’s room
unknown women tend her
blonde mother of the plains
silent girls offer reflections to kiss
a cord to my abdomen glistens and throbs
and she spins that cord
and she spins and she twists
and when she is old
she spins
and when she is dead
she spins

Bogen Today and Tomorrow (My World and Welcome to It 15)

Since last post many changes erupted in my world — I grew old/ I grew old, perhaps I’ll wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. (Why is it that I write in quotations and no one has the same bibliography?)  March 27, I became 63. I was content to be miserable but my friends would not allow it.

I do not know what I do not know. My mother had Alzheimer’s disease. It was ironic when she was diagnosed in 1991 because the doctors said that she had had it for several years already and why hadn’t we noticed?  My mother was an erratic, volatile and hysterical woman. We had just thought she was being herself. Folks laugh when I’d say that, but to be honest, when one only knows another in one light after a long time it begins to seem normal.

Two weeks ago I went to the UCLA Gerontology/Psychiatry Clinic to see if my mom is coming to eat up my brain (in a manner of speaking).  I have been plagued with increasing memory loss. Things that I’ve known or once were easy to know or do — like remember certain poems I’ve written, say Havana or Rat City — I cannot remember. I will start a sentence and half way through, I forget what I was trying to say. Damn embarrassing if you are in front of an audience or students.  I’m still waiting for the results. Nervously waiting.

Do you want to know what really stinks?  Having to go to the Gerontology clinic.

Bogen Today and Tomorrow 14 (My Life and Welcome to It)

OK, that’s better. I made it past number 13…(breathe)

 

I was born in downtown Los Angeles at California Hospital and have lived within 15 miles of that hospital I’d say my entire life. I’m not sure if that is an accomplishment to be proud of or not. On one hand I could be thought of as provincial, a rube-ette in a manner of speaking. If you happen to love L A… well, you might think something else.  I spent a good part of my early life trying to leave my home. I attended Marlborough School for Girls in  the Hancock Park section of L.A. and that experience along with the very very tight apron strings that my mother choked me on fueled the hope that I could make tracks asap and head for New York City.

I graduated from High School in 1967 at age 17 — the summer of love they called that summer  — but if you only think of  the social norms and conventions of the era in terms of the counterculture, you need to remember that the same state that brought peace love and flowers also brought Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the men that put them in power.

If I had been schooled at convent I could not have been more isolated than at that school. my classmates had had the best education money could buy. I came to the school from public school — my father was a physical education and drivers ed teacher / coach at Hamilton High School on the cusp of Culver City. And he was Jewish. Democrat.

The daughters of Richard Nixon had attended Marlborough, so had the daughters of Walt Disney, the Doheny’s, the 400, the Blue Book members of the Social Register all had gone there. When I began in the 10th grade most of the girls had known each other since grade school, cotillion or volunteer social groups. They were not cruel to me by any stretch of the imagination. It felt even worse: I was invisible.

How did I deal with it? Anorexia. Depression. The beginnings of the mental illness that had started after my sister (the scapegoat) had left the family and my mother could turn her attention on me.   Still interested? More to come.

Bogen Today and Tomorrow 13 (My World and Welcome To It)

Bit of the old paranoia taking up residence in my frontal lobe, did not want to blog for fear of  _____________(fill in the blank). I’m not responsible, I didn’t mean it. Really.

 

Just need to finish this entry (number 13) so I can begin with a  more auspicious number.

 

Endit.

 

 

 

 

 

Bogen Today and Tomorrow 12 (My World and Welcome to It)

 

 

After an overwhelming 6 weeks, I’m back online. The world has been too much with me. Confusing to be sure. Kinda depressing, kinda exhilarating — leaving me and Sir Chumley trying to figure out where I belong on this spinning orb. Things I thought I felt, thought I knew, somehow have been coming up to bite me in the leg. An example: my mother.

One of the things that kept me alive has been that I have been able to stick her in a compartment in my brain named Cruella DeVille/Malificent the witch. She was EVIL. And as long as I could think of her as that only, I could be OK. Lately, however, I remember things, the good things, we used to do together, the things that made me feel like she did love me the best, maybe the only way, she knew how to. Not like the way that haunts my nightmares. The nightmares that are peopled with the merciless, the failed.

The Mother’s Room

and this too is me
the dull sheen of purple jersey
daughter as crone
and behind that door
the mother’s room
unknown women tend her
blonde mother of the plains
silent girls offer reflections to kiss
a cord to my abdomen glistens and throbs

and she spins that cord
and she spins and she twists
and when she is old
she spins
and when she is dead
she spins

Bogen Today and Tomorrow 11 (My World and Welcome To It)

October 26, 2012

Considering the season: My favorite of the Halloween poems I’ve written over the years. Have you ever created something that made you smile when you thought about it? That you weren’t sure how it happened that you made this thing but it knocks your sox off? This poem does that to me. Tickles me. So, Happy Halloween. Wishing you all many treats and no tricks. Until next year…

 

October Knob and Broom

I.

 

Wind holds as the bonfires
grow crackle and spark
maple leaves fly away crows
caw and caw
what witness do you bear
jackdaw and superstition?

All Hallow’s Eve
and my rusted hobgoblins
so many apples bobbing on icy waters
rise up shiver and haunt

Children bloated and sweet
grin like fat little pumpkins
of summer made flesh
predict gifts under a sharp and radiant moon
 

As I needle and crochet shawls
from my jagged bones
rattle cast and spin
tooth of the earth

 

and winter is a-coming soon

 

II.

(What do you fear?)

___________________________________________________________________________________
 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Max.

My nephew is 16 today, my brother’s only son, he lives with his parents outside of Phoenix AZ and phoned me (diganabbit one of those new fangled e-phone) a photo holding his first Driver’s License. At the risk of sounding banal it is difficult contemplating that Time Marching On concept. My sister-in-law, Laura was pregnant with my nephew 16 years ago that summer my father, Max Martin Bogen, died. So to honor both her father and ours she named her son Max Paul Bogen — Paul being her father’s first name.

For many many years whenever I thought of Max I’d feel a quick stab of loss that I’d stuff down as quickly as possible. Every birthday meant that my father had been dead for that many years. My nephew however, is his own human being. From birth he was loving, kind, smart and so cute all the ladies at his church had to touch his wild curly hair when the family came for Sunday services.

I must admit though, I do not know boys very well, in terms of gift giving or spending time up close and personal in a manner of speaking. How to reach out?

I remember when I was a child — some weird aunts and uncles would show up that I hardly knew. Maybe I’d see them 5 times in my life. Who were these people? Is that what I am?

I can honestly say I never wanted to have children. Never and not for a minute. But I DO like being Auntie Laurel — many of my L A friends, mostly from childhood or college, have bestowed Auntie-hood upon me regarding their daughters. Quite a bit easier since I know what girls are like. And things they like to do. I could take them to the theater to see Cathy Rigby live in Peter Pan, or we could have tea at Bullock’s Wilshire tea-room. Plus I can send them home when I get tired.

This sounds cavalier but it isn’t really. I also know myself. I have been schizophrenic since first diagnosed in 1971. I’ve been hospitalized so many times I don’t even know how many times it has happened. I’ve had 3 series of ECT treatments. So I don’t think having a child would have been a good thing. Saving the world from myself, I guess that’s the best way to see it.

________________________________________________________________________

September 21

 

I attended a reading this evening at Beyond Baroque: Wanda Coleman, Amelie Frank, Maria Mazziotti Gillan. I’d hazard that it was the best reading I’ve attended this year. Perhaps because I’ve know Wanda since the 1970s and Amelie for quite a few years, I expected the customary pleasures of hearing colleagues at the peak of form. And Yes, they were.

There was something almost Olympian about Wanda Coleman’s reading. She had been ill of late, so did not speak out loud until it was her time at the podium. The diagnosis?

Dr. Bogen (sic) — Even though ill, Coleman suited up and gave a stellar reading. Her work, covering a range of themes and styles, from the jazzy to the noir then to the visceral, and with a macabre humor at times, she gave her performance her all. At one point, she had to wipe her face with a cloth and I had a sense that I wanted to say you are a trooper Wanda, I had such respect and admiration for her. The poems were brilliant too.

I have watched Amelie Frank grow and become seasoned over years. It has been a lovely thing to behold. I don’t mean to sound like a pompous old fuddy duddy (blah blah blah), but OK, I have been a poet in Los Angeles for over 40 years. I have watched the tides of poets who come here looking for — I do not know what, although the lure of Hollywood often brings them. Some last, some do not. Some move away, go to graduate school. Some die.

Frank could have been any of those. But she is not. She has endured the seismic upheavals to others close to her and has gained a wisdom from that pain that is hers alone. And thrived.

The real surprise, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, was simply breathtaking. Reading last, the audience for the most part did not know her. A couple left before her set began. More’s the pity because they missed the opportunity to hear work that resonated with truth in its depiction of one woman’s life.

But here’s the trick — on the surface, these poems are about one woman and her life. But Gillan takes that personal and expands it to the universal so that her husband’s slow descent to death is also an emblem in the BP oil spills. If you read that Gillan is reading at your city, I highly recommend.

Bogen Today and Tomorrow 7 (My Life and Welcome To It)

On Performance Anxiety…

Yes Yes and again Yes. I DO get anxious, big time. Today I spoke on two panels at the Writers’ Faire at UCLA Extension. It was a gorgeous day outside, not too warm, a nice crowd. Yet the two panels were very different. When I think about I should have heeded the sign: I spilled my iced coffee on the check-in table, dropped my purse twice.

But on I went: my first panel — one of the first of the day — I felt off my mark. It was in a huge lecture hall, I had little sleep the night before because I do not feel comfortable in front of an audience when I am not in complete control of the situation. (This is why I can do well on my own poetry readings because I know most of my poetry by heart and there are few fluctuations or untoward changes to deal with.) With me were three other writers – two novelists, a poet/memoirist who teaches online — and myself. At first the microphones did not work, one of the other panelists was stuck on the 405 but got there in the nick of time, the air conditioner was on the fritz. I was not a happy camper although I tried very hard to be. My jokes were flat, my class pitches dead. I could have been a cypher on a stool and gotten the same response.

The second panel was in a smaller classroom — filled to the rafters with students on the floor,in the hallway, we could not fit them all in. I felt much more at ease, perhaps because of Leon Martel, the excellent panel facilitator who brought out the best each of us. Everyone was engaged: students, speakers. At the end, I had 8 or 9 people waiting in the hall to speak to me.

OK, maybe I need to be needed just like everyone else, to feel that my chosen profession has worth, and by extrapolation, I do as well.
Enuf said for now.