Friday, December 19, 2008
the one in the yellow
is my little sister.
you can tell by her eyes
that don't want to focus
the whole world is new to her still.
the girl with the scowl
beneath wicked curls
by my face you can tell
i'm at least old enough
to have learned
what it means
to hear "no."
in the photo i
lean toward her as she
fails to notice.
perhaps she already is planning:
the move to the city,
the life left behind,
the sister she never
will visit again.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
We had to write either two stories and one poem for my creative writing class, or one story and three poems. I've already turned in my three poems, so here came the one required story. I was at a complete loss... until I remembered my good friend Jack. We had to have plot with a complication that developed and was resolved, so that took me a little while... But here it is to share with you all...
When you hear his name was Jack, you will of course think you understand what that means. You'll have already become acquainted with everything that goes along with a young man named Jack: that he lives in a magical land not completely unlike our own, that he's rather unpopular, and that he must set out on a journey to find his fortune. You mustn't, however, assume you know too much about this young Jack or you'll do him and his journey a great disservice.
Jack's day began as it always had: mucking out stalls for his mother's master. Jack's mother had been born the slave of their master's father, and when that great patriarch had died he'd left everything, including Jack's entire family, to his son, who happened to be a pharaoh. This Pharaoh took particular pride in his horses, fine black Arabian steeds, some mares and some stallions but all exceedingly large. Jack gave these equines nicknames apart from the names the Pharaoh had given them, as they were all entirely too long. For example, He-who-runs-faster-than-th
"Merciful heavens!" exclaimed our mannerly hero, "Have I hurt you, miss?"
"Oh, woe!" moaned the beautiful flaxen-haired damsel, "Woe that I cannot be called Miss any longer! For when I awoke from my nap after spinning, I found myself married to the man who had woken me with absolutely no say in the matter! Now I am a reluctant Madam and have only just narrowly escaped from his castle as he himself was napping."
"What a shame," mused Jack, already weary of her ramblings. "Can I help you in some way, Madam…" he trailed off, searching for her name.
"Briar Rose," replied the beauty, "But my sisters have always called me Bri."
"Fabulous name," declared Jack, who indeed had a penchant for shortening names. "What brings you to my stall?"
"I know not," said Bri, "Only I know that in my weeping and wandering I found myself here and do not care to return to the man who made himself my husband. I should like to return to the kingdom of my father and mother and sisters, where I always was happy and might return to spinning flax and singing with the woodland creatures who lived there."
Jack rolled his eyes. He'd run across ladies like this before, as a slave, and his opinion of their shallowness and vanities was similar to his opinion of the material that dirtied the straw into which they had fallen. Thinking of this he realized they were still lying in the mess, so he hopped up and offered Bri his hand, realizing as he did so that even though his opinion of her might not be grand, his slave upbringing required that he help the princess. If she wished for Jack to return her to her native land, as she had so clearly just stated in her high-context Princess way, then Jack would surely have to get her there whether or not he was bound to work for the Pharaoh. He would have to consult his good friend John, and said as much aloud: "I'll have to talk to John."
After he had finished cleaning the stalls and hidden the Princess in with Frenchie, or as Pharaoh called her, Mare-who-prefers-to-dine-u
"John Henry!" shouted our handsome hero over the din, "John Henry, it's me!" Jack hated to distract his friend from his work – he usually loved to sit and watch the tall, strong man manipulating his metals, beads of sweat rolling down his perfect ebony skin. He'd spent many evenings listening to the music of the metals, smelling the different flavors of each one as they burned.
John looked up and laughed, "Jack, you should be in bed! What on earth has you up and about at this hour?"
"A girl," admitted Jack, reluctantly. "A princess needs my help to get home. I can't figure how to help her without getting my mother beaten or worse when I leave. And we'll need horses for the journey, of course, which I don't have, and food as well. I don't mean to burden you with my worries, friend. You're just such a great thinker, so I came to you for ideas."
"Well it's funny you should say," John chuckled. "It just so happens I've been working on a little something in case… well, just look!"
John Henry stepped over to a dark corner of the shop where a curtain hung. As he drew it back, Jack gasped at what he saw. He thought surely he was looking in a mirror, but saw neither glass nor frame. There stood a second Jack, a copy of himself, life-like and perfect!
"I've been hearing you think about leaving this place for some time, Jack. I don't reckon anything should stand in your way," explained John Henry, "not no Pharaoh, not nobody. I started working on this some time ago, melting my metals in just the right mixtures to make this here clockwork-Jack. He'll walk around and do your tasks and even reply when spoken to. No one has to know you're gone if you don't want them to, Jack. I'll wind him up in the morning and every morning until you return."
Jack couldn't speak. He jumped up and threw his arms around John Henry's neck, grinning like a kid with a frog, and hugged him as tight as he could. John just laughed in his deep, bronze-bell-ringing way, and when Jack let go he went on. "My cousin Foxy can help you, she lives just outside of town in a house you can't miss. But you'll have to give her something if you want her to help you; she's not the kind of woman you can just mess around." With this he handed Jack a small wrapped package.
Jack wasted no time. He scurried back to the stalls, grabbed Bri by the arm, and they set off, running as quickly as they could. Before long they found themselves outside a strange hut, illuminated by many funky colors, with music coming out sounding like nothing he'd ever heard. Jack, always a bright young man, deduced that this had to be Foxy's house, so he knocked loudly.
The door opened and there stood the most stunning black woman Jack had ever seen, with hair teased out as wide and tall as the doorframe. "Foxy," she said, extending her hand in a manner that indicated she didn't intend for it to be shaken, but rather kissed. "Foxy Brown. Whatchou want?"
Jack took the hand, bowed, kissed it, and said "I'm Jack, and this is Bri—"
"PRINCESS Briar Rose," interjected Bri, clearly threatened by the cool lady's badness and making no attempt to acknowledge the outstretched hand. "Charmed, I'm sure."
"John Henry sent us," explained Jack quickly, "He said you could help us get prepared for a journey it seems we must be on."
"Well y'all can come on in and sit down if he sent you," cooed Foxy, indicating a curiously fuzzy couch of no color Jack had ever seen. Foxy sat down across from them in a chair that looked more like a swing, staring at them in a way that reminded Jack of the way a panther stares at its prey. Jack remembered the package suddenly and jumped up.
"Oh, Ms. Brown, I do apologize for not remembering right away, but you see I was just so distracted by your amazing ways. John sent us with this gift for you." He handed Foxy the package which she gleefully tore open to reveal two large golden hoops.
"Ooo-wee!" she squealed as she threaded them into her earlobes. "I'll never take them off! Shoot, let me get y'all something to eat for the road!"
After she returned with a large basket full of food, she began to scratch the back of her beautiful hair. "Now I know I got something in here for ya if I can just… there." And with that, she pulled her hand back down, holding a small pistol. "You'll need this," she said. "There's some real bad characters out there, you know."
"I was wondering if you might know where we could get a horse," asked Jack politely. "I think we have a long way to go."
"Don't worry, baby," said Foxy, cool as a cucumber, "I got just the thing." She stood and beckoned for them to follow, which they did as if hypnotized. They were led to a back door which Foxy opened. Stepping out, she gestured proudly and announced, "1973 Dodge Charger, babies, the best car you could ever hope for, and she's got two-hundred-and-eighty horses up under her hood. Handles like a dream." Jack could distinctly see the love in her eyes as she said it. She tossed him the keys and said, "Now get going, you two, before I change my mind. Head north and look for my friend Alexander. He knows his way around all these parts, he'll be able to get you on the right path."
Jack and Bri climbed in the Charger (which Jack suspected the Pharaoh might call Steed-that-rushes-unceasin
"Oh, excuse me, good sir," she said, giggling unnecessarily. Jack started to roll his eyes and then caught himself. He'd never had a girl at his side before, so he decided to let her stay, if only to see how it felt. Before long she was asleep on his shoulder as he soldiered on.
By midday they rolled up on an intense battle scene. Not wanting to get mixed up in the fray, Jack parked under an olive tree for a nap of his own and passed out directly. He awoke to a tapping on his window, and Bri jerked awake as well. He rubbed his eyes and the tapper came into focus: a white man with a large nose and a metal cap with feathers on top stood before the window, brandishing a large shield and a sword which he used to tap on the window again.
"We're awake!" Jack shouted, starting to roll down the window. Then, as he took a second look at the sword being used to tap on the window, he thought better of it and opened the door wide, forcing the soldier back as he stepped out.
"What business do you have in these parts?" asked the soldier loudly. "What brings you to the battlefield of the Great Alexander?"
Bri pushed forward and out of the Charger. "I am the Princess Briar Rose, and this is my servant-boy Jack." Jack suddenly felt quite cool toward the girl who had been warming his shoulder so recently, but kept quiet. "I demand an audience with your Great Alexander."
The soldier kneeled briefly before standing to bark, "Follow me," then turned and began to march briskly away. Jack and Bri nearly tripped over themselves trying to keep up as he weaved in and out of the many pitched tents. The two youths had never seen anything like the camp before: in this tent, a man sharpened his sword, at the next, one polished his shield. One tent had amazing smells coming out of it as a soldier cooked his dinner of lamb, while at the next they could already hear snores. Before long they found themselves standing outside the largest of the tents. Their guide pulled back a curtain and announced, "The Princess Briar Rose requests an audience of your Greatness, Alexander, King of Asia!"
The handsome blond man on the throne beckoned for them to enter and they did, trying not to stare at the amazing sights around them. Beautiful women played stringed instruments, sang, and danced around the man on the throne. Warriors sat, grunting and planning the next day's battle. Servants cooked food for the king, who sat in the midst of it all seeming not to care one bit about any of it. Unphased, the princess walked right up to him and curtseyed. "I am the Princess Briar Rose," she said proudly, "of the kingdom of Perrault, noble in lineage of my father and my mother. I require assistance in the form of guidance to return to my home and my people who are no doubt missing me at this very moment."
The young king seemed unimpressed. "And I," he replied lazily, "am Alexander. The Great. I require assistance in slaying a horrible monster that appears to have no weakness. Help me with that, noble Princess, and I shall tell you exactly where to find your kingdom, as I have knowledge of all of these lands."
The princess blinked once, then twice, and seemed to be entirely speechless. Jack, knowing her type well, understood: she simply wasn't used to being bargained with, or having demands made of her. He stepped forward. "Noble King, perhaps I can help also. Could you tell us more of this monster?"
Alexander sighed and allowed his crown to slip from his head. "It's big," he stated, "and slimy, and terrorizes locals, and doesn't seem to want to leave the lake it's in, Loch Ness. The oracles have told us to entice it with food, but it's uninterested in any food we have to offer."
"Aha!" exclaimed Jack. "It just so happens that we come bearing food from a foreign land, cooked by a woman of great skill and badness! Perhaps we could try it and see what happens?"
Alexander sat up straight for once. "Foreign food? Yes… foreign food. It could just do the trick. You call that monster up out of the depths with your foreign food and I'll tell you how to get home, Princes. Kill it and I'll take you there myself. Now go from my tent and do not come back if you bear bad news."
They quickly backed out of the tent, bowing nonstop. As soon as they were out, Bri popped Jack in the back of the head with her open palm. "Foreign food? That's your bright idea?" The level of mockery in her voice was impossible to ignore. "You're going to conjure up some stinky, slimy, evil monster and kill it with Foxy's food?"
"No," Jack patiently replied, "you're going to conjure it up with Foxy's food. Then I'm going to shoot it."
Bri didn't take to the idea initially, but as Jack explained it was their only hope of finding her home, she eventually came around. They went back to the Charger, got the picnic basket, and edged up to the lake. Jack positioned himself and his shooter just out of sight while Bri laid the food out, talking all the while.
"Mmm, ham salad sandwiches! How delicious! And with pimento, too!" She was doing a pretty good job of hiding the fear in her voice. "And deviled eggs, my favorite! Ooh, pineapple salad, how lovely! Mmm, smell that sweet tea!" Bubbles were starting to appear in the lake. "Pickles, too, homemade and crispy! Wow, get a load of these thick kettle potato chips!" A snout peeked up over the water, followed by two murky eyes. "Golly, is that … it is! A whole tray of fudge brownies!" That was enough for the monster, which reared up and came charging up the bank of the lake. Bri stood fast, uncharacteristically brave, and Jack jumped up to fire three shots perfectly into the monster's skull. It collapsed on the beach just short of the picnic.
Jack strutted up like a true hero. "You know," he said just as cool as you please, "seems a shame to let all this good food go to waste, and I know I haven't eaten all day. Lady, would you deign to dine with me?"
"Oh, Jack! I'd love to!" squealed Bri, and together they sat down to devour the goodies Foxy had prepared for them.
Just as the moon was high overhead they strolled back to Alexander's tent. Jack threw back the tent-flap and said proudly, "Hey, Alex, I got your monster. I got your monster good."
Alexander couldn't believe it. He leapt off his throne and came running to the tent-flap. "There," said Jack, and pointed to the large dark lump in the distance.
"Well I'll be," said Alexander. "Please, please, stay here in my tent tonight, and in the morning I'll happily deliver you to the kingdom of Perrault." The two found beds in the large tent and fell fast asleep, worn out from the excitement. When day broke, Alexander awoke them with breakfast and a crowd of soldiers and locals singing their praises.
"Perrault," said Alexander, "is a day's journey northwest by foot, but I daresay in your chariot you'll get there before high noon."
"Really?" shrieked Bri. "I'm that close to daddy and mommy and all of my sisters? Jack! Let's go now!" She grabbed his arm and took off toward their Charger and he was helpless to do anything but follow.
The beautiful red car glided effortlessly over the plains and before long Bri was bouncing in her seat, cheering and clapping as she recognized landmarks. Soon the castle itself appeared on the horizon and Jack felt strange to notice he wasn't anywhere as happy to see it as his companion. This would mean their journey was at an end, and while he would have succeeded in returning the princess like he'd promised, he'd still have to go back to work for the Pharaoh, back to his life as a slave, watching his poor mother toil all day long. Nevertheless, he was a man on a mission, and he kept the pedal to the floor until they arrived at the moat.
"Who goes there?" hollered a guard from a parapet.
"It's me!" chirped Bri. "Bri! I'm back!"
The drawbridge dropped with a thud and a commotion could be heard inside the castle. Just as Bri was bounding across it, Jack trailing behind, her father the King appeared inside the archway with his arms spread wide.
"Briar Rose, my darling! Welcome home!" he boomed in his kingly voice. "And who is this young man with you?"
"Oh, that's Jack. I found him on my way here, he helped a little."
"Son," said the king, "if I know my daughter, then I'm quite sure she's underestimating what you did. Why don't you tell me about it?"
Jack had made it across the drawbridge by then, and told the king about everything: hiding the Princess away from the Pharaoh, John Henry's clockwork-switcheroo, Foxy Brown's gifts, Alexander's orders, and his own valiant conquest of the monster of Ness. He told it humbly, but he told the truth, and the king was quite impressed.
"It's my kingly duty," he said, "to offer you half my kingdom, my daughter as your bride, and as much fortune as you can carry with you!" At this, Bri batted her eyes coyly at Jack.
Jack paused and thought. He reflected on how it had felt to have Bri at his side in the seat of the charger. He thought about their dinner date on the edge of the lake after he'd saved her from the monster. Then he thought about her ramblings, her airs, and her silliness.
"If it's all the same to you," he said, bowing, "I'll just take the fortune."
Bri actually gasped out loud. The king was startled but quickly hid it. "Well," he said, trying to save some face, "it just so happens that we have a family of spinsters here. Bri's sister has learned to spin straw into gold here lately, and you can take as much of that as you can carry with you. Do try and be quick now." He gestured to a guard and said, "Lead him to the rooms!"
Jack was led to three rooms filled with golden thread. He carried load after load until his 1973 Dodge Charger was filled with the stuff, bowed in thanks to the king, gave the princess a quick peck on the cheek, then climbed in and drove off into the sunset. He was going to buy his freedom, his mother's freedom, his family's freedom, and John Henry's freedom and build them all houses in the woods next to Foxy's, the baddest lady he'd ever met and to whom he intended to propose, and they could all live happily ever after.
Friday, August 1, 2008
with a new girlfriend and she's
everything you ever want in a flame.
1) Easy on the eyes and
2) Stuck to your side.
In the dream, bits of her skin begin
to peel off and float away like ashes until
she's left with only
a pretty dress, sculpted hair and smile.
You wrap your arm around what's left
pull her in for a kiss
and beam, so happy, so proud.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
No big deal, by the way, but I've found my next house. It's everything I've been praying for. It's small, cute, close to campus, and has a pretty, level, fenced yard for the pooch. It's got lots of cabinets in the kitchen and a showerhead I won't have to stoop to get under. It's a three bedroom, one bath. It's got a nice big den on the back that I might even claim as my bedroom and stick couches in one of the bedrooms instead. It's in a safe, landscaped neighborhood. It's affordable. In short, it's a godsend.
Why, then, did I feel a very particular nervousness as I was driving back to Hot Springs after turning over the deposit check? Because I'm afraid of commitment and always have been and probably always will be. The particular feeling of fear I was feeling, the specific trepidation, seemed familiar to me and at first I couldn't put my finger on why. I began to dissect the fear to get a better look at it. It was the "run for the door, quick" fear, a "this might not be right even though it seems that way" fear. It was a voice in my head telling me that even though it was everything I'd wanted and everything I needed that I shouldn't change my life.
Then it hit me. It's the exact trepidation I get every time I'm about to go under the needle for some new ink. Even though I've committed to the design by staring at it for months on my refrigerator and drawing it on with a sharpie over and over, I still want to run for the door each time. But I suck it up, conquer the fear, and go through with it... and every time I love it.
Trepidation is a fun word to research. Merriam and Webster, close personal homeboys of mine, say the etymology is Latin trepidation-, trepidatio, from trepidare to tremble, from trepidus agitated; probably akin to Old English thrafian to urge, push, Greek trapein to press grapes. That's exactly how I felt - as if I was hopping from foot to foot, back and forth, nervously. Then the definition goes on to say that trepidation means "timorous uncertain agitation." What perfect, beautiful language.
I'm about to make a huge change in my life. For the past eight years I've been working in restaurants and trying to make that my life, even if I didn't realize it at first. That is not to say that restaurant work can not be part of my life again in the future, but at least for the next two or three years it will not be the focus. My focus will be classes, studying, papers, reading... Instead of in a kitchen, I will spend most of my time on a campus. Rather than cracking dirty jokes with cooks, I'll be discussing ideas with professors. I'll replace late-night-socializing with early-evening-studies.
I'm terrified... but excited. I've been put on this path for a reason, the universe has been painfully clear about that. Fear can be a motivator for strength - as long as my trepidation keeps me hopping from foot to foot on these fresh new grapes, I'll make sure I'm at least hopping forward.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Technically, if I were going to stay "It all started when..." I'd have to say it all started one sunny Labor Day back in 1982 when Susan Elizabeth Weston Wallace gave birth to an eight pound zero ounce squalling baby girl with a head of curly black hair. That girl came unknowingly into a world of cruelty to learn many very important lessons, and forgiveness was one of them.
More recently, though, it started with a movie my father gave to me - a documentary on Forgiveness when I had no idea that I needed it most. I watched it and was overwhelmed, driven to go looking for more learning on the subject. Forgiveness manifests in every religion with different rules applied to it. The Buddhists say that we forgive so that we can clean up our own minds of negative thoughts, for our own karmas. Hinduism sees forgiveness not as weakness but instead as a great power. I told you what the Jewish religion thought about the F-word in a past blog – it’s my favorite interpretation thus far. Psychological and scientific studies on forgiveness have only begun recently – like, 1980s recently. Science has learned that when we originally refuse to forgive, it's actually a survival mechanism. It gives us the adrenaline we need to deal with a situation, and keeps the body moving away from the negative situation. However, when the resentment is held on to over time, it becomes detrimental to our bodies. People who are more forgiving live longer and have healthier as well as happier overall lives when compared to people that hold onto resentment.
When I wrote about it last, a few people asked me to talk more about it when I'd learned more. Forgiveness is so important and so beneficial and something I never thought I would be big on. I never saw myself as a "forgiving type." Those of you who know me well will surely have no problem understanding this. I would like to stress that I am not an expert (and it turns out there are Forgiveness Experts who by the way travel around giving seminars) on anything at all due in part to my twenty-five short years, and I'm just going to tell you what my experience of it has been.
It's awesome. It's completely different from what I originally perceived it to be. I had thought forgiveness was something you gave someone, granted someone, did for someone to help them, to make them feel better, or to somehow grant some magical pardon or... I'm not sure what I thought it was, but I thought the verb "to forgive" was something you did to or for someone else. It is not. It is not. It is not. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself that just happens to impact someone else. Forgiveness does not mean you forget that so-and-so is an arrogant and insensitive punk. It means you accept that they are arrogant and insensitive, and you let go of all resentment you have attached to the fact. You do not feel anger over their actions. Maybe you can feel disappointed, but even that's probably not so great an idea.
And I know that I still have miles to go before I sleep... and miles to go before I sleep... but I know now at least what forgiveness is and I've been practicing it with great results. Shoot - ask me about the fat man at the lake that I ignored at first and then told I forgave for screaming at me that I was an ignorant bitch for swimming near him! Forgiveness is letting go, it is the opposite of holding onto resentment. Acknowledge what happened, acknowledge why it happened and the person who is responsible for it... and let go. Realize and recognize that what happened was negative... and refuse to let it impact you any more. Forgiveness is not Forgetting - forgetting only sets you up to be hurt again and again. Remember, but remember at an emotional-arms-length. Forgiveness is practicing peace in your heart and your consciousness. Forgiveness is saying no to negative thoughts.
A week or two after my father sent me home with that movie, the package from my mother arrived in the mail. My mother, my greatest heartache, the woman I have not had a relationship with for eight years because I could not allow her negative influence in my life anymore. I've resented her for the way she treated me, for the things she did. I've resented myself for allowing her to hurt me. I've resented the other people in my family for not stopping it. And it isn't healthy and now I know this and I am daily practicing thinking of her and the whole situation without negativity.
We may or may not ever have a real relationship again, but that doesn't mean I have to let it bring me down. Someday I hope to tell her that I have forgiven her and to truly mean it. I cannot rush into this - again, those scientific studies stress that premature forgiveness is unhealthy - but I am working toward it every day.
This is what I've learned thus far. Now you know. Now tell me what you know.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
(it is said) to ballet dancers. It makes
so much sense, that their exquisite grace
should have such a cost. I hear that they wrap them
up in gauze, from bruised heels to broken, battered toes,
scarlet soaking through and they just keep dancing,
keep dancing, keep bleeding for the dance.
My feet are bleeding and it's
all your fault. Or that's what I tell myself when
I will not accept that the dancers can quit
whenever they want. But tell me, what happens
when you can't want to stop? When nothing has ever
existed but the dance? Some part of me knew
that when you and I stepped in front of the mirrors
and stretched out our limbs that we would be faced
with a thousand of Us, staring back, demanding answers
with their asking eyes, wondering why
I haven't quit dancing for you yet.
I say I am dancing because I cannot stop; because
since the moment I turned my face toward you there has been
nothing but the dance and my tiptoes are joyful martyrs
and my heels are kamikaze pilots with tears of ecstasy
waltzing down their cheeks and they will not stop dancing and praying,
spinning like dervishes on the verge of divine bliss. Because
you are divine like a golden Grecian god and I have shed
enough tears for us both, because since the Magdalene's first
two-steps it has been the woman's burden to sacrifice
unrequited salt. I keep dancing because the thousand couples
in the mirrors are crying like they know it's a suicide mission
and as soon as we step back from the glass they will all disappear;
because my bandages are blackening; because my shoes
are cups that overflow; and I am dancing because
I cannot stop because despite
all of this
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
the things we've done already in my mind
would make a red man blush, would make a nun
recite ten rosaries for all mankind.
The way you order your beef cooked mid-rare
has made me sure that we were meant to be
in love and build a life and every day
we spent would be increasingly more fair.
You look up from your plate and right at me,
and in this kitchen I feel myself sway.
But I have seen you 'round here for some time
and one would think that if I meant to kiss
your face, I would by now have made you mine,
and we would know the flavor of our bliss.
Your server asked me if we have steak sauce
and all that I can do is softly pray
your table-mates and not you are the ones
whose palates suffer incalculable loss,
and even you must feel a bit dismayed
to see them sauce their steaks ordered well-done.
Your dainty features, your exquisite smile,
your shining eyes, your lilting fairy laugh,
the way your head is tilted to one side,
the way your neck reminds me of giraffes...
Your personality must attract bees!
Although my feelings may, to you, seem queer,
and though you may not want me for a spouse,
my darling, I proclaim the facts are these:
that you could have the fame and the career
and I would stay at home to keep your house.
Monday, June 30, 2008
that much, couldn't say what building on
the campus it was but I remember your smile
against those red walls like it was already
tattooed on my breast. I fell in love with you
that day and have again every day since in the
nearly eight years it's been. Fate is called
fickle but I think she's more constant
than she's given credit for being. Because
in those eight years how many days
have I woken wishing I was with you, kissing
the place on your breast where perhaps my
smile might be tattooed? The answer is Yes,
the answer is Every One, the answer is Someday,
Fate will decide I'm ready for all of you and
you're ready for all of me and we'll build
a home in Costa Rica or perhaps India where
people come to be fed and hugged and read to
in any language, where love songs will fly
through the air and cannot be dodged, where
our arms will never untwine, and every wall
will be painted scarlet and smeared with our smiles.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
It's still hard to say the word out loud. I practiced it in person on someone this past weekend. I had to look not in the eyes but just below, just at the apple of the cheek, and say it syllable by syllable, slowly, wincing...
I follow omens, follow the path the universe lays out before me, and sometimes life's nudges feel more like shoves. I've definitely been feeling some shoves into this, but then the good lord doesn't give us anything we can't handle, right? So I reckon it's damned time for me to learn this very important life lesson.
I'm reading up about For...give...ness... and what it means. I intend to write about it more later, but I want to share this little anecdote I've learned right now. I've been studying what forgiveness means scientifically, and what it means to buddhists, christians, muslims, hindi and jews. The Jewish bit has really really gotten to me especially. Here's the thing they believe - if you do wrong, you make two sins. One sin is against God because you broke his rules, and the other is against the person you actually wronged. You can ask God to forgive you for sinning against him, and he probably will because he's God and he's cool like that. But you also have to ask forgiveness from that person. God can only forgive what you did to him, not what you did to that person. And the person has no religious obligation to forgive you unless you ask. Here's where it gets really fascinating. If the offender goes to the offended and apologizes and the offended does not forgive, the offender walks away. If the offender apologizes a second time and the offended does not forgive, again nothing happens. But if this happens a third time, a third apology and a third refusal, then the offender (if s/he was really sincere) is now absolved of all guilt, and the guilt now belongs to the person who refused the apologies.
Freaking heavy. My little dabbles in forgiveness have been going really well. Like, bliss-inducingly well. I'm not going to lie - I'm really getting a taste for the stuff. I want more.
Monday, June 9, 2008
I won't want a big wedding. I'd much rather it be small - just a few close family members, just a few close friends. I don't intend to wear white because I think a bride should have to earn that honor. I just went to a wedding where the bride DID earn it and still wore cream. I will want to look stunningly beautiful for you, but I won't sport a color that implies virginity.
I do want to get married near water. Whether it's a lake, an ocean, a river - doesn't matter. I have a favorite body of water or two in mind but am open to suggestions. In fact, you should know that I'm a compromiser on most things - this should make our marriage go smoothly because you seem like a pretty easy-going dude yourself.
It's important to me that you know I don't want to marry you because you're some famous actor and I want your money. So, to that end, I think we should keep a joint checking account and each put equal amounts per month to pay the rent and utilities. After that we can each have our own separate accounts going - your money will be yours and mine will be mine, period. I'm willing to sign on this in a prenup.
I never wanted to have children until I fell in love with your eyebrows. This has now become a negotiable issue. If you want them, we'll talk, if not, I'll just go back to plan A.
I won't want to follow you to every shooting location because I respect that your job is just that - YOUR job. However, please understand that if you ever wind up in a movie like The Fall ever again, and they're shooting in twenty nine different countries (I don't know that I could even list twenty nine countries off the top of my head!) I will probably be trying to follow you around. This will not be to stalk you nearly as much as it will be to capitalize upon travel opportunities.
I think we should discuss whether we want an open or a closed relationship and upon what terms. Monogamy has always been a very difficult thing for me - but again, then I fell in love with those eyebrows and now a few things have become negotiable.
You should know I'm a poet. This means that you will be getting ready to leave the house one day and find a poem in your pocket. Then you will find a poem stuck to your windshield another day. Then perhaps on a birthday or anniversary, when you were expecting a fancy shmancy present, you'll instead get another poem because I'm a poet and I'm broke. This also means that if you ever do me wrong... well, there will be poems. The thing of it is, though, I don't completely suck. I'm not E.E.Cummings or Nikki Giovanni by any stretch of any imagination, but at least you won't be disgusted by the poems and lose all respect for me.
You should also know that I'm a little needy. I'll leave all these poems, and I'll see little things that remind me of you and either buy them or steal them... and I'll expect tokens of affection in kind. They don't have to be the same as mine, but they should be nearly as frequent or I'll start to doubt your love for me. And despite this need, I'm not big on P.D.A.s You can have your arm around me, but I won't want to be kissed in public. That's just for us, just in private, not for the world. Being photographed when we go out will take some getting used to for me, as I don't enjoy it at all. But then you have those eyebrows, so I'll see what I can do.
I'll await your reply,
Ginna Funk Wallace
P.S. I love my name and intend to keep it. Our beautiful-eyebrowed children can use yours if you like.
P.P.S. Did I mention I have a culinary degree? You can expect to reap the rewards of that regularly.
P.P.P.S. Parents? LOVE me.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
I am reminded of this blog I wrote after having read Montaigne’s “Of Practice.” As a preface to this, I have spent all summer for the past four summers swimming away issues and stress out at Lake Ouachita, the second cleanest lake in North America, swimming across and back as many times as possible without stopping. This is a first draft, never edited.
I think everyone has thoughts like these sometimes. I think this because I have to in order to stay sane. If I thought people didn't think like this, I'd think I was insane, and if I thought that I'd start to believe it and then I would be crazy and they'd lock me up.
I like things that make me feel close to death.
I'm not sure what this is about. Let's start with the fact that I have a substantial fear of heights. It's not debilitating or anything, but it does make me feel nervous, feel fear, and this problem with vertigo takes over if I get too close to the edge. So, naturally, I climb buildings. I hang out on rooftops; I go to the mountain tower; I ride roller-coasters and at the very top, while everyone's looking forward to see what comes next, I'm peering over the side at the ground below, positively ready to defecate in my britches. I think fear is the mindkiller (shout outs to those who read that and recognize) and I try to fight it at every chance I get.
And the only thing you should really be allowed to fear is death: it's the one thing you can't survive. Sure, I hate bugs - I'll kill a bug and put a cup over it and try and psych myself up to actually pick the dead thing up and throw it away but it takes days. Sometimes I think maybe my fear of bugs is the main motivator for my relationships with men - there's someone around to take care of it then. But a bug won't kill me, you see. Public performances? Oh I can't hold the paper without it shaking, can't even sign up on the open mic list without having to scout out the ladies toilet so I can hit it up seven times before they even get close to calling my name. But I'll live through it. And I do still kill bugs, and I do still perform publicly, because these things frighten me but I don't want them to control me - I want to control them.
Death, when you really break it down, isn't that scary either - not, at least, to me. I'm only twenty five, but I've been to eight countries. I'm bilingual. I've been to a couple of different higher-education-institutions. I've made friends all over the globe. I've ridden airplanes and trains and roadtripped. I've had a handful of really awesome lovers and can overlook the not-so-awesome. I really feel like if I died tomorrow, I'd have nothing to complain about. Sure, I'd have things I would have liked to have accomplished, but I honestly couldn't be sore over it. I've done more than my share already, and it's been freaking sweet.
I say all of this as preface to the thoughts I had this afternoon. I try to conquer my fears daily in my mind, and today while I was swimming, I thought about what would happen if I drowned one day. I've been swimming across this lake and back for four summers now, and I'm pretty good, so God willing it won't be an issue. But it's possible. And I think about being out there, swimming, on a Thursday afternoon when no one else is at the lake - no one on the shores, no boats - maybe one boat but far away. And I think about, as I swim across, what if... what if one of the times that water splashed in my mouth, I didn't spit it right out. What if I accidentally breathed in? What if a muscle seized up and I went under?
Well. I think a few days would pass before anyone knew. I wouldn't show up to work, but they'd chalk it up to a no-call no-show like any other job. Wouldn't worry until the second day, and who would they call? Maybe the girl I work with would call my roommate, but he wouldn't know where I'd gone. Some park ranger would come to the door of my apartment, or maybe even my father's house, who knows, knocking and asking why the car had been sitting on the side of the road for three days and somehow two and two would get put together.
And I'd be waterlogged at the bottom of the lake. I think about this while I swim and I keep swimming and keep swimming and keep swimming off the stress of the week, off the memories of travels, swim off all the past lovers, swim off everything, everything, swim off the fear. If I drowned at the bottom of Lake Ouachita, I'd say leave me there, put a stone near the shore saying Here She Dove and Did Not Rise; Here She Was Never More Happy.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
I'll pause for a moment while you reflect on that statement and what it implies. Pause, giggle, gooood.
The gimmick is that they're accepting submissions from anyone as long as they're 3"x3". That's really effing tiny, just so you know. I have a few short poems so when I read their bulletin about it I said to myself, "Self?
I made these nine pieces that I just turned in without photographing first. I realize how stupid that was now. But they're fun. Not great art, but good poems, and I made them, me the carpenter's daughter, went and picked out some quality pine 3" wide boards and took a bandsaw to them and got my poetry on them and lacquered and drilled wee 1/16" holes and put me some eye screws in to hang them with. It was super fun.
The show is this Friday. If you're a Hot Springs person, you know about it already, and if you aren't you won't make it anyway, so I won't list the details, but I bring it up because I'll have to miss it because I'm working. I'm hoping they'll be open earlier in the afternoon and I can slide in to check it out before I work at 4.
There are nine. There may or may not be up to eight more depending? This was really super fun.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
I feel the healing begin as soon as the key turns off. Gather up materials - towel, shoes, sunscreen? Oh guess not, bummer. No goggles today either, damnit. Alright, well, it's the first real swim of the year, it can't be perfect yet. Get out the car, bury the keys in a hidey-spot, and begin my trek through the woods. When I find myself at the edge of the water, if there are people around, I crouch down and shed my layers apologetically - if not, I'm brazen about it. I like to sit down and scoot into the water as the drop-off is quite steep. When I'm almost hip deep I'll take a huge breath and dive on in.
Oh my dear sweet lord. I'm home. I push and push and push myself under the water, trying to see how long I can make the breath last, how far out I can swim before I have to surface. I can feel the little things start to wash off - the fact that the grill man must have burnt seven orders today is gone. Hating the chemicals I have to clean with - gone. I push and push until I'm sure I'll die and only then allow myself to surface. I heave out the biggest sigh and immediately begin pumping legs, pumping arms - I have some distance to cover.
I was previously sure it was a quarter mile across the lake where I swim - Google maps tells me it's more like a tenth. It feels like a full mile. Hand over head, hand over hand, kick kick kick... and I like to switch it up. I'll swim forward, belly down, paddling, then start spinning like a top, swimming while I spin left left left, then right right right, then lay on my back and kick and throw my hands over my head and pull the water down my sides.
You'd never know I was an earth sign.
But apparently my Chinese astrology is full of water. And I love it. I love the feeling of being near weightlessness, the power, the strength I feel when I swim, the way my body moves in the water. Halfway across I forget the fact that I've just worked nearly seventy hours in five and a half days. Then I realize I'm not even halfway across yet and I get a little thrill. I won't let myself stop, won't take a break, have to swim the whole way without stopping. I get tired and I don't care. I keep swimming, keep spinning, swim front swim back swim sideways, just keep swimming and do not stop. Boats don't frighten me - I frighten boats. They can't figure out how I'm doing what they're doing without paying thousands to do it. I'm doing this myself. My own body does this by itself and it is a miracle.
When I finally get to the other side, it's interesting and hillarious watching myself try to pull my body back onto land, trying to remember how it works to be on land again. It takes a moment. This being the first swim of the year, I just collapsed until I remembered how to breathe again. Stood up and walked around to my favorite little spot where no one can see you sunning topless. Hung out until I got my breath back and then... back in, back across, without stopping once again. Gone is stress, gone is drama, gone are bills and unfulfilled obligations and chores, there is nothing but me, the sun, the water, and my breath...
Nothing but me, the sun, the water, and my breaths.
I'll get to the other side and touch rock, but usually cannot climb out just yet. Something about my body just isn't done with its water experience yet, doesn't want to do the land thing again just yet. I'll play games with my body in the water - try and float and see how long I can keep my toes above the water. Try to spin like a top without moving my arms. Try to swim with just my arms, or just my legs, try to turn somersaults without getting water in my ears.
I am wholly myself again, friends. Varsity Lake Crew tryouts begin now.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I've been fascinated with the Napoleonic era and its mindset for a while, and I've recently developed a celebrity crush on poet Edna St Vincent Millay. So I found two books, one with quotes of Napoleon and one with poems of Edna's. Here is what I want to share, and it's been helping this denying-lovesick poet these past few days.
"I do not ask you for the definition of love. I was in love once, and I remember it well enough not to require those metaphysical definitions that merely confuse matters. I do more than deny its existence. I believe it to be harmful to society, to individual happiness - in short, I believe that... it would be the merciful deed of a protective divinity to rid us of love and to liberate the world from it." -N. Bonaparte
"What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more."
-E. StV. Millay
Then Marty McConnel, a poet who regularly gives me Explody of the Brain, wrote a poem containing this line... "the ones who sing you love songs/ are never the ones who stay."
I'm just meditating and reading and wanted to share this with you all.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Writing a draft every single day... I didn't know if I'd be able to do it, but I did, and everything holds promise. A very select few are ready now, I'd even be comfortable with publishing a couple of them... the rest... well, they need work, revisions, rewrites, edits... but what a lovely bunch of coconuts I'm sitting on top of now.
I'd thought I'd carry into May, writing and writing, and keep churning out drafts - at least a couple a week. But April left me so worn out that I've written nothing so far this month.
I had previously intended to pull all the drafts down... but I think I'll let them stand. It was an amazing time, and I want it to stay up. I'm still copying them into some word type document, still printing and editing and rewriting. Still intend to turn them into a new chapbook at some point, but there's no rush.
Next week I fly to New York to visit a good friend and make a few more. I'll explore a city that I've only ever glimpsed previously and hear amazing poetry and see amazing sights and eat and breathe and walk and see...
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
already of your own words
you will never hear.
what i mean to say
is that i am growing sick
of train-like speakers.
i'd rather you talk to yourself against a wall
in the mirror, into your phone, open but not on.
if all you want to do is talk, allow half a response,
then interrupt it to talk more, go flap your gums
all by yourself. i'm absolutely sick to my stomach
to my lungs to my heart i have become
sick to my ears of the sound of your voice and
i've always warned people who should know
that when i am at my most quiet i am also at
my most dangerous, most angry. i will float
in my silence allowing you to verbally masturbate,
lost in my own fantasies in which i reach out
and grab your jaw and tear it off of your face,
declaring you unworthy of your words, walking
out the door with it held high over my head like a
trophy, baptizing me with every step. i will
take it home and string every one of your teeth
onto a necklace, bleach the jaw and attach rubies
and diamonds and make of it my crown which
i will wear when i intend to do nothing at all except
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
You will say it first, accidentally,
instantly apologetic, and then we will
become awkward, sitting in silences
perched like parenthesis around the words
I will not acknowledge, for the remainder
of the evening. No, I won't say it first,
and probably not even second or third:
You'll have to repeat it a few times,
make it start to stick like a sacred mantra,
before I really believe you. Poets have
this predisposition, you see: poets put
more value on words than we do
on water, on oxygen, on gold, which are
good words to use in this metaphor anyway
I will not say I Love You until I am sure
I can commit myself wholly, blissfully,
unwaveringly to its meaning. I will not tell you
I love you until I have already imagined
each and every way you could hurt me
and reconciled myself somehow with surviving
all five thousand and three of them, in detail.
Monday, April 28, 2008
She ate slowly, this girl who used a voice like mine, sipped her coffee with just enough sugar and just enough cream and didn't worry about a single thing. As she talked and listened and listened, her face dried and the smile began to stick, first in the corners of her mouth, then more and more around the temples. Her conversation became animated and I watched her speak with her hands using gestures that made ballerinas look like newborns.
The girl with my hair on her head stood to leave, and one more person in her young life with advice for her decided to approach her and give it. The reasoning was invalid, but it was heartfelt, and finished off with "You'd be happier if you did."
"I don't know," I heard her say. "I'm a pretty happy person."
She said it like she intended to mean it, and I suspect she did.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Makeda spat in the dishwater; swore never again.
It was the water, you see, that started it all:
When she woke in the night with a desert-sized thirst
and reached for the pitcher there beside her bed.
And then, there he stood to make good on his threats.
Said if she'd broken her vow not to steal from his house
then he could break his not to take her by force.
Jerusalem hadn't enough water to wash off his crime.
Makeda took to bathing with oil.
She would not swim or tavel by boat and when
the yearly rains came, she stayed inside until
Ethiopia's golden sun dried it all up.
Her solace was knowing her son would be king,
did not know Solomon's son would be called a god.
Final victory: Ninth victory:
I thought the time might be right.
I laid down on the ground, on his level,
to make of myself less a threat,
and sure enough, gods be praised,
he began to climb his awkward mangy body
all over my face, giving kisses out wildly;
it was then I was allowed to pet him.
As I was walking away, him chasing behind,
tail wagging, he jumped up and placed
both paws on my leg and pushed.
He initiated contact, you see.
While he was eating out of my hand,
I allowed my thumb to carefully, slowly
graze the side of his puppy face and he
pretended not to notice.
One afternoon after the meal and I
was walking back to my door,
he actually followed me, chased
me even, tail wagging.
The day I tried holding food in my hand
and he cautiously ate out of it before
running back into the alley.
When my car pulled up, his tiny matted tail,
previously perma-tucked, popped up and
When I threw the food closer and closer,
he came closer and closer to get it,
even if he snapped at my hand when it was
too near for comfort.
He came back
every single day
at exactly three forty
when I got home from work.
the alley alongside
Friday, April 25, 2008
Please know my plans: I'll delete every single one of this month's posts when the month is over. That's right. They're effing rough! I'm still working on that day I still haven't posted, because I can't decide if it's a letter I'm writing to the future lovers, a letter my ex is writing to me, or a letter my ex is writing to them. I'm posting these drafts now as a... jeez I don't even know. As proof that this is actually even happening - proving it to myself as well. But then they'll get edited, rewritten, cleaned... and then will come my fourth chapbook, with each of these in order, dates at the top.
Until then, this is how it stands.
Bob Marley is getting tired of turning over,
can only do it so many times a day,
six feet under ground, but atrocities are
happening, man, and rolling over is all he's
got left he can do. Tuff Gong sang
to us of redemption, called upon us to be
buffalo soldiers, to get up, stand up.
I need answers, Bob, but you're not here
to give them. Music is freedom, is movement,
is revolution - or should be. Why, then
did I hear today on the sadistic speakers
at my job the elevator-jazz version of your
sacred call to action, somehow sedated,
the magic removed and it became
Sit Down, Lay Down instead of a rigteous
charge. Whose signature made this possible,
Bob? Roll over and speak me some truth.
Or rise up, and find these dollarsick bastards
whose idea it is to make this happen. Let
your ghost descend upon their households,
whispering into their children's sleeping ears
until they wake to grow their hair out
in locks, quoting scripture to their fathers,
wailing out against oppression, buildling Zion
in every backyard.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Today's poem was about the little city I love so much: Hot Springs.
She sits amidst mountains in this
vaporous valley, springing hot.
She shows a little leg and
coaxes the lonely stranger to stay.
She swims in drink, she sleeps
with gamblers, she runs with horses.
She tri-lake, my spa city, she
West Mountain, she Bathhouse
Row, she Higdon Ferry,
she Gallery Walk.
My city will sing to you siren hymns
so you don't never want to leave her.
My city will stand on her front porch,
saying hush, dogs, hush,
watching you leave, making bets
with herself on how long til you come back.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
p.s., i'm still up for the "poem i would never write" challenge if anyone has suggestions. only seven poems left in the month.
My heart is a dusty attic long abandoned
with one old leather chest up against a wall.
A few old photographs inside, no names
written on the backs. My heart is
a great hall with roaring fires,
long tables laden with food,
seating for everyone. My heart is a
crystal lake reflecting her beloved
sky; my heart gets tired of pushing
that old cart around the park and sits
down on a bench to rest a while
and talk to herself. My heart surfaces
to blow a giant plume out her blow-hole,
takes a huge breath and then
dives a mile deep and won't
come up again until next winter.
My heart is a young woman who lept
from the top story and found not death
but a whole new life she would have loved
except she misplaced it somewhere,
probably with her keys. My heart
goes barefoot and splashes in rain puddles,
is a lone buzzard circling, a bronze bell ringing
at a stately funeral attended only
by gravediggers and rain.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Me and Frank:
Secrets I will not take to my grave:
My first kiss was my little sister. My cousin
made me believe I'd been raped as a child.
I still can't forgive my uncle for the way he treated my teddy bear
when I believed it was alive. I still wish my teddy bear was alive.
I don't know if I prefer to date men or women, but
refuse to call myself bisexual. I knew before I married him
that someday I'd ask him to leave me.
If I know in advance that I'm just the other woman,
we'll be okay, but God help you if you hide it. I don't know
if I believe in God, but I do believe in magic. I feel I'm superior
to other people just because I'm intelligent, billingual,
and well-traveled. I think voting makes me hotter. But at twenty-five,
I still don't know how to take a compliment, and if you tell me you think
I'm beautiful, I'll wonder what you really want from me.
I thought I was afraid of abandonment, but as it happens
I'm really just afraid of allowing myself to become vulnerable.
I may be thin, but I still eat my pain. I use my dog to make me
feel better. I use alcohol to make myself feel better. I use sex
to feel better. I believe in ghosts because I believe I've seen five.
My left breast is bigger than my right one and
I have dimples on my butt. I judge people with poor grammar;
I judge people with poor teeth. Sometimes when I'm tired of
eating my pain, I spend it instead. I like to go to movies by myself
for two reasons: One, I like movies, and Two, I want people to
see me and feel like they could go to movies by themselves. I'm glad
crack kills. I can hold a grudge like a sponge can hold water:
it's the one thing I learned from my mother after what type of woman
not to become. I wish my mom had died when I was a child,
so instead of knowing she's alive but doesn't care I could imagine
she was loving me from heaven. I like to climb on top
of abandoned buildings to think because the air is more clear
that close to God, whether or not she exists, and some of the
happiest moments of my life happened on those rooftops.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Here's what happened on my paper today:
i drove down highway seven tonight
for the first time in too many years.
you remember: it used to be Our Highway.
with every white dash it all came speeding back:
the one time i tried to follow you, your
daredevil-red tail lights always just
out of reach as i cursed both you and the
insane math you used to justify the speeds:
a sign will bear a sketch of the curve to come
and a suggested speed which, when multiplied
by one point five, equaled the minimum you'd
be going when you negotiated its curves.
the patches of fog that would drift in and out,
the mountains rising and falling around the car
like so many green waves, rabbit and doe
aknowledging the car and turning nobly away.
the times i let you drive my car knowing
the golden egg my father would lay if he knew
while clucking "uninsured driver" over and over
but you could always drive it better than i,
the oldsmobile eighty eight with the bench seats,
your arm around me and your hand inside
my panties, our lungs so full of high school we were
blissed out invincibles, and the roadside park
where you pulled her over so we could make it
on the picnic table: i thought my ass would freeze
to it. and the one night you took the gravel-
road detour, just because you could, and
the herd of doe appeared out of nowhere, all
around us, and the way you spun the wheel back
and forth a thousand times in those ten seconds,
dancing through them as they passed in front,
behind, and over us, and you didn't graze a one.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Things My Father Taught Me:
Dovetailing corners builds the strongest furniture.
Food cooked over a fire always tastes better.
Just how to paddle, just how to lean in a canoe going over rapids.
More than respect for my elders: an active love for them.
Respect for his anger, respect for his firm broad palms.
Respect for myself.
Everything in its right place.
Stand up straight, head up, shoulders back, soldier, chest out.
How to waltz, at my cousin's wedding, standing on the toes of his shoes.
Friday, April 18, 2008
stuck on your arm like a watch
so I drank wine instead of whiskey
as a favor to you both.
Today I parked my car right next to yours,
went inside, did my business and left
and managed not to scratch all my keys
down its length like nails on your chest.
Today again I managed
exactly seven times so far
(and it's early yet) not to call
and say Come Over,
not to send a note that asks
What Does She Have On Me Exactly
Oh look, there goes number eight.
You're welcome. Come over.
I miss you. I want you.
What is it, by the way,
exactly that she's got?
Thursday, April 17, 2008
every night, same route:
around the new hotel, tall pristine and proud
down the long convention center with its landscaped paths
curling back around the old hotel falling slowly apart
and then home again.
Conventions come and go and
the groups that visit them stand out with their similarities.
Scrapbookers wear pajamas, eat too much and carry
rolling suitcases behind them, laden with stickers.
Fishing enthusiasts also happen to be
very-large-truck enthusiasts and jeans-with-boots enthusiasts.
High school musicians like to sit out front of the hotel
waiting for the pizzas they've ordered all by themselves,
playing guitars and pretending they don't
want to kiss one another.
They come to town in so many yellow busses
lined up all in a row like a box of twinkies
and most of them leave their doors open.
We slipped inside a door one night, closed it
behind us, gave a toy to the dog and made
clumsy frantic love on three different seats
before we spotted his leash trailing behind him outside
and hastily snatched up pants and shoes to run him down.
Now, I enjoy being single. I swim in its freedoms,
take pride in actively loving myself:
I take me out on dates, buy me dinner,
buy me drinks, sneak a flask in
to the movie theatre and eat just as much
popcorn as I please before I take me on home
and respect me in the morning.
But it's summer in my city once again
and conventions are coming more
frequently. I round the corner with the dog
and see the Corvettes come in, so many rows lined up
for the show, bright shining hood after clean polished hood,
right in the middle, a pair of perfect seventy-six stingrays,
with absolutely no one to fuck on top of them.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
First to go: Mom's cat named Moses.
I was still swimming
through that age whose memories
only exist now in vibrant snapshots.
I can still see him leaping out of the tall grass
where I'd been searching, over my
low head and I fell down BAM and when I looked
over my tiny shoulder, he'd disappeared.
He was already dead at the time.
Then the blonde boy in my sixth grade class
I never really knew but always thought was
"cool." He did it to himself in our
seventh grade year. Girls who hadn't even
known him wailed for weeks.
A family friend: Lu Nedro. Ninety-six year old
Roman candle with the fiery mop to testify.
Caught pneumonia and was gone before a
fortnight passed. The viewing was stuffy, not
at all the type of thing I thought would please her
and I refused to look in the casket. I've managed
to forget the funeral but remember palming a
golden buddha incense burner from her
My father's oldest brother when I was a junior.
My father's mother: I was still a junior. My
father survived them both, but not entirely.
My father became a different man.
Seniors graduate and immediately go camping
to celebrate, laughing lots and sleeping little.
Aaron, I imagine, was exhausted: he'd been
our host. He crossed the median. I wasn't
there but can still hear the crash.
I never heard how Nikki went. Her mother
found my address in a notebook and sent me
two programs from her funeral. It was months
after the fact and knowing I'd missed it
killed me, as they say.
In fifth grade, a boy named Xander Smith
asked me why I was already Jeremy's
girlfriend. I said because he'd asked me &
He cried I couldn't because my name
was written on his dental floss. We both
grew up to be gay. I was in Scotland when
his car went off the old Memphis bridge,
was sent a link to a memorial website.
I still won't accept it. His picture tore right
through my belly in a slide show at a
driving safety class. Left it and saw
his published book of poems at a coffee
shop and heard him say, "Just take it,
you know I'd give you one myself."
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Forgive me today, poets, I've no idea what to do:
brave heroes leaping
from couch to coffee table:
the floor is lava!
kick those little legs
until you swing so high that you
feel like you might fly
sidewalks become moats
bicycles are great white steeds
nothing is not real.
three children laughing.
underneath hypocrite fists,
one child is crying.
what joy can be found
in huge piles of fallen leaves
and their destruction.
Monday, April 14, 2008
What is going on? This full moon is already tickling me in fourteen different directions, and I should have had at least three more days sanity before it kicked in. Wish me luck.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
but refuse to bear for you the power conceived
by regret. if i had known her flavor infused
your kisses i would have made you leave,
called you back and made you leave again.
i would have laughed in your face and called you
ugly names usually reserved for teenaged janes
whose only crime lies in that they had the gall to
blossom first. i'd have become a voodoo queen
and painted chicken blood across your door
in the shape of her name. if i had known her unseen
fingerprints were mapping highways out on your
skin i'd have cut it off to make a lampshade
and never lit it up, never let it be displayed.
one beast, three backs.
twelve directions, one blood
painting walls with every scream.
three hearts, one drum,
three mouths, one song.
all praises due unto
one key to one room.
six eyes, six breasts,
one goal, three wins.
shared digits and traded numbers,
then came breakfast,
then came bed.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
a spider spinning webs
in which I trap mine enemies
and promptly suck them dry.
I am patient, I'm unkind,
waiting until just the right moment when
one of my strands is bound
to trip you up, one of my strands will bind
you up and hold you there.
Spider I will slip over and sing to you
while I spin you up in my silk.
Goodnight, sweet prince, tomorrow
you shall be my breakfast drink.
I am become
a snake coiled and waiting
full of venom, full of fangs.
I am clever, I am quiet,
knowing soon you'll trod heavily
upon my earth and when you do
all you'll feel is a sting
as the world blurs around you.
Serpent I will swallow you whole,
digest what I will and then
one week later deposit all of you
that is worth nothing
back onto this earth.
I am become death, I
shatter worlds with my breath.
I am not one to cross a line,
until it's been crossed and then
Reaper I shall rush behind you with a knife
and settle it quickly. Know this:
I never wanted it to be this way.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Wake up. Get dressed. Get in the car,
remember that you've forgotten something,
run back in, grab it, drive to work.
Clock in, get coffee, get water, get started.
Ice down your line, get out the items you need
to cook for everyone but yourself. Cook
for them all but help yourself to a few bites
of the food you couldn't afford anyway.
Prep phyllo wrapped bries. Prep duck confit
egg rolls. Prep penne, prep bowtie, prep pico
de gallo. Prep yourself for the shift you're
already dreading tonight. Clean down, swap
out the line for the night crew, but don't go home
yet. Take ten dollars from the drawer, run
to the store and get saltines, bring them back, clock out.
Smoke a while and think about the poem
you wish you were writing already.
Water the dog.
Pet him a while and wish you'd had time
to take him to the park like he deserves.
Promise to bring him a pork bone later.
Go back to work. Clock in. Get water.
Get tables. Put on a smile and make them believe
there's nowhere you'd rather be. Pretend you're at the place
you'd desperately rather be. Between tables, write
a few lines about Grandmother Spider moving into your car
spinning single declarative strands across your windshield.
Throw them out. Run food. Refill waters. Sell wine.
Get into an altercation with an uppity bartender.
Put him in his place and regret it all night.
Settle your checks. Find the missing one and
print it again. Settle up, sweep your tables,
Smoke a while.
Now I lay me down to sleep,
set my alarms and say a prayer for my sanity.
Tomorrow may or may not be better but Sunday,
I will count these tips and then,
me and you dog, we're going to the park.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
out and across the lake, slow.
my ten toes, skating.
In 2006 I needed to write at the end of March. So I got thirty pieces of colored paper and put dates on them all for April and taped them up all over the apartment. I went around writing a poem on one every day, and it went so well I carried on through May with different colored papers and found my house a joy to inhabit. Then this year came around with spring making me feel all tickley inside again, and come to find out that April is actually national poetry month and sometimes people take a challenge to write every day. When I did it the last time, I was very forgiving. Two days I just posted quotes. One day I wrote an essay about my job's microcasm of the nationwide macrocasm of the migrant worker issue. One day I translated Neruda's Poema XV, which good god damn is a tasty piece. I'm definitely intending to write something every day this time, but maybe once or twice it will just be a haiku/senryu/short-observational-poem. Just so you know.
Love you guys. Holla back, I'm seeing tons of views and I have no idea who.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
A dear beloved friend of my heart has just had three things happen to her that she did not deserve. She’s been accused of having stolen something she clearly didn’t steal, and as a result, the accuser has filed a restraining order and will be taking her to court. Plus in the meantime, other drama is going on around it, and the poor girl needs a smile.
Poem to make Becca Jane smile.
Becca Jane, baby girl, I think you stole something.
A certain Mister Justin Timberlake went to the trouble
of bringing sexy back and yo fine ass look like you
sho nuff stole it. I mean to say I think you
stole something. I think you stole cute
from Shirley Temple you stole sass
from Amelia Earhart you stole fine from
angelhair pasta I mean to say I think you’re alright
but girl quit stealing smiles right off my face!
Becca Jane, baby girl, I’ma file a restraining order
against my SELF for you, you’re so fly
I can’t stay away: And I mean to say if anyone
was going to try to restrain you they’d better bring
lions and tigers and bears, oh my,
because you’re a force with which to be reckoned.
Fuck Dorothy: you are a Gale
a tidal wave, a lightning storm.
Women as powerful and wholesome as
beautiful and righteous as you are few and far between.
I mean to say when women like you get born
restraining orders become more and more obsolete.
Becca Jane, baby girl, I’ma take you to COURT.
The one with a basketball and we’ll play H-O-R-S-E.
Or maybe C-A-T and be done quicker or
H-I-P-P-O-P-O-T-A-M-U-S and stay out playing all night.
I mean to say I’ma take you to a royal COURT
and put your queenly self on a throne with a crown
I’ll make outta of clover flowers. Did you know that
a group of kangaroos is called a Court? I bring this up
only because I want you to know that if you
were a kangaroo I think you’d be a fine kangaroo and you could
steal my ball while we played your name in the
throne room all night.
Becca Jane. Baby girl.
Be a duck and let water roll off your back.
Be an eagle and just soar above it all.
Be a lightning storm, be angelhair pasta, be whatever you want,
but I mean to say at the end of the day you’d better
make sure you keep stealin them smiles.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
hard to read my smoke signals.
i always got nervous when the time came for
ollie ollie oxenfree -
i'd much rather keep myself hidden
keep my love hidden and
if no one ever goes seeking
we'll both stay hidden forever until
someday someone will find our skeletons
in a forgotten closet
and write this epitaph:
Here Lies a Lonely Girl and the Love
she was Always Afraid to Share.
but tell me how do i spell out in smoke:
the time i have here could be
your time these kisses i have could be
your kisses if only you wanted them;
but you don't want them at all.
and all i've ever wanted is
exactly what i'll end up getting:
in this closet
Monday, April 7, 2008
springtime and the green clover grass sprouting like wild exclamations write about
wisteria climbing everything in sight, dropping its blossoms and its sweet scent like seasonal calling cards
write about the love you wish you had each april.
stunning suns setting later and later every evening write about
mornings making you put on long sleeves then afternoons that make you take them off
write about the need for someone’s arms around you tight.
the promise of mimosas due to bloom in a month or so write about
the lake still ice cold but so high you can’t wait to swim in it again so you jump in anyway
write about the kisses no one is giving you.
evenings spent on porches simply sitting write about
grilling out just because you can again and eating outside too and staying out even after you’re done
write about going to bed alone.
spring is supposed to be about new beginnings i coulda swore write about
baby birds cheerfully singing you awake when all you want to do is shoot them in their loud mouths
write about the lovers that never did you right.
summer will come scorching soon and burn it all down write about
swimming in a heat so fervent and sweltering it feels like just what the medicine man ordered
write about sweating it out, leaving it behind.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
she don't love me anymore.
said my babe done up and left me,
she must not love me anymore.
something must have caught her eye and
she walked right on out that door.
my babe left me just last tuesday
how i'm gonna pay the rent?
you know she left me just last tuesday
now how i'm gonna pay my rent?
coz she went drinkin just last monday
so my money's all been spent.
looks like my baby's really gone
but she done left all of her things.
i said i think she's really gone
and she sho left all of her things.
i'ma go on down to pawn
and take all her diamond rings.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
In 1981 I was seventy-three and some girl sang a song
about my eyes: it spent two months at the very top.
I tell you this as an introduction because you may not
otherwise know who I am. To be sure, there are
many things that you do not know. For example:
You clearly do not know what it once meant to be
a Hollywood dame. You know parties and cameras and
fashion and parties but do you know the weight
of Struggle’s yoke? A husband ashamed of making wages
equivalent only to your tithings who will not let you
buy a home until he’s the one who can afford it?
You do not know shame and being made to wear it:
Hollywood did not throw me a christening
with fireworks upon my arrival. They first only used me
to screen test other actors, fifteen of them made to lie
on top of me and give me a passionate kiss. I laid there,
a modest virgin praying for death or stardom already -
turns out they’re really the same thing.
Insincere, they called me, and frivolous, at first.
They would come to say feisty, forceful, intense, and once
an English barrister would call me, in court, a
"naughty young lady": it was always my favorite critique.
Can you know what it is to come from nothing?
You are no single mother borne of a single mother,
no boarding school babe, no ugly duckling watching films
for a religion, dreaming dreams with such strength they have
no choice but to become realities. You took a role on a screen
and screamed like a horror queen; I took a role and
became horror, unpretty, unsympathetic and fearless,
combative, convincing, consumed. Would you have shaved
your hairline and eyebrows for an Elizabethan role?
Today’s beauty will wither and fade and blow away
and you will be left with only your soul to show
for it all. Will it be ugly? The city whose name you wear
like concealer held me tight through my last hours,
when I was too weak even to fly home to die.
Pretend for a moment, as an actress, I beseech you,
that you were not born with a mouthful of golden spoons.
I was only forty when I heard them use the term
"soft lighting" - you will overhear "Botox" one day.
You’ve already learned to dangle the public from your fingertips
like my trademark cigarette, but what will you use,
if cancer takes your breasts, to charm America,
your fourth husband, your own doubting face
in the mirror each morning? For myself, I can only say,
"I did it the hard way."
Paris, darling, be easy on their eyes if you must,
but tough on all they have left like an atom bomb.
Friday, April 4, 2008
like a paper doll tied up with twine,
no strength to move her fragile paper limbs.
Adolescence hung her head in shame
while everyone pointed and called her names
and brought their scissors out to have a trim.
I suspect there’s a less lame-o rhyme for limb I could use here... but then I’d have to change the second line in the next stanza as well...
Adolescence’s legs swung in the breeze
while scissors threatened to snip at her knees
and paper tears fell from her paper face.
I’ll tell you what Adolescence is:
She’s not grown up, but not a kid;
a feeling that you don’t fit anyplace.
She’s thin but not quite thin enough,
She acts it but does not feel tough,
and one strong gust could carry her away,
and every laugh within your view
seems to be aimed right at you.
What’s reason? You know true fear needs no base.
I slip between "she" and "you" because I want the poem to remind people of their own adolescence, but wonder if it works or if it’s too awkward or if there’s a way to fix it.
But Adolescence has paper wings
budding and growing and dying to sing
into air and take her far away from the crowds.
Adolescence got away just in time,
her tough paper arms ripping the twine
and soaring up to float among the clouds.
Adolescence is a lonely bird
made of paper, she feeds on words,
so when you feed her words, do not be rash.Who’s got an idea of how not to have to repeat "feed her words" here?
Withhold ugly, don’t use dumb
feed her beauty and brilliance, achievement and fun,
’til a paper phoenix rises up from her ash.Again: too obvious? I could come up with something different I’m sure of it...
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Last night’s dream had me back in my father’s kitchen.
Which also was once my childhood kitchen, but isn’t anymore:
I’m no longer a child, I don’t live there, things have changed
and the only person still there
is my father.
It’s my father’s kitchen today, and so that’s the way it was in the dream.
Except my sister was back too, and so was my father’s ex-wife:
She also once was my mother, but she isn’t anymore.
Certain things happened and
I had to live my life without her in it.
Sometimes families are funny that way.
Last night’s dream had me scared and overwhelmed.
Which should have therefore had me brave,
but sometimes dreams are funny that way.
They show us things we think we’ve learned
but haven’t yet mastered.
We all want to learn things;
I want to learn how to be brave, keep my head,
be wise, even-tempered, live above anger.
It’s something I’d been proud of improving until last night’s dream,
Which started with a fish.
I was at my father’s sink,
the sink i grew up with, cleaning a fish that was huge it had
skin and eyes and gills and i
couldn’t even pick it up and
she was there, yelling at me i was
taking too long the
fish was going bad.
Last night’s dream had me screaming:
Please stop it!
and heaving the fish in a rank garbage can
I see color in dreams and sometimes even smell
and this horrible garbage was stinking to hell
so I ran.
Last night, in the dream, my ex-mother was pregnant.
At sixty. Hiding it well until
I came round a corner to run into her big exposed belly
in a striped shirt where lines became waves;
Her face was so many things at once…
it was shock, it was fear, it was anger, betrayal,
confrontation and guilt: her face was a novel
of feelings without names.
3 black crows that used to be her soul
screamed at me through a hole in the mouth of her face
"don’t judge me, don’t judge me, don’t judge me."
Screaming it like she wanted me to, to somehow justify
the judgement she'd already given herself, but I won't.
Woman, your justice would freeze beer.
I'd thought I'd awken then with that realization
but the dream went on and there was an altercation.
I’m not proud to say it: I joined in
lost my head, blew my cool
and woke up with my voice coming out of her three mouths:
"I’m not ready for her yet, I’m not ready for her yet, I’m not ready for her yet…"
Kissing my sleeping father goodbye in the dream,
telling him I wish I could stay and work things out but
I’m not ready for her yet.
Sometimes life's messages can be funny that way.
I want a mommy that loves me for me but she’s not
Ready for me yet I wonder if
She’s having dreams in which she’s a pregnant fish,
stinking and gasping for a breath of cool water
but she’s not ready for it yet.
Guilt runs through her veins like ribbons
and they’re all tied up in knots.
Tonight in her dreams I’ll untie them.
So she can become a baby
in her mother’s kitchen and I’ll defend her
until she’s strong enough she’s ready for love.
I’ll tie her heart to my apron strings
and we’ll forget all about last night’s dream.