Monday, May 31, 2010

Antique Shop 1

The Roman arches made her happy; nice and simple and solid, the tops perfect semi-circles. So secure that stone was, and so comforting. Nothing like the Gothic spires. No elaboration and frilliness here, just perfect shapes set in stone. Thick and clunky and homey. They made you feel secure. Catherine stood under one of them at the United Church at Holy Corner. The rain was pouring down outside, but it was good rain since it was spring and the flowers needed to be fed. The flaming yellow tulips planted in the Meadows and the circles of head-bobbing daffodils, and all the little flowers Catherine couldn’t name. She didn’t know about living things. All she could classify were stones and surfaces. Trees and plants she could never name, but she appreciated them, all the same. It was good to wait out the rain here, and she was bored anyway. Needed a breath of fresh air and to get out of the flat. Away from a loud, shrieking housemate, and a funny-smelling sullen one.

Catherine was an architecture student at the University. She enjoyed it, but felt sort of aloof. University was big and impersonal and it swallowed you up. Mainly Catherine kept herself to herself. She went to lectures and seminars and sat quietly taking notes, studied the flash and glare that reflected off the professor’s glasses and went back to her rented room when she was done.

For some reason, she liked coming down here. It wasn’t a very far walk from Marchmont. Down Morningside road with its view of the hills and the white stripes of the artificial ski slope at Hillsend. Sinking down into the district of millionaires. Her friend Susan told her that Britain’s highest concentration of millionaires lived in Morningside, but Catherine was skeptical. Surely they would be in some area of London, she thought, not up here.

Sheila and Brita (cont.)

Sheila watched Brita sleeping in the pillow. She looked at her sanguine cheeks, the closed eyes, and at the tiny hairs up her nose. This close, she seemed ugly. Sheila was falling in love with this momentary grotesque. That way Brita’s left eye seemed slanted, dismembering the normally symmetrical face of the girls Sheila slept with—girls from New York and California, blond Christians with tiny mouths tiny noses and plump eyes.

The first sight Sheila had of Brita was not on the colorful front porch but inside the living room, during a game of Pictionary. Her coworker, a boy named Justin who lived out at Riverside and recounted his time hunting deer last weekend, pointed to his friend Brita and explained “she’s studying engineering, at a vocational college, and is therefore the smartest fucking person in this room.” The actual introductions came from Brita first, who sprinted form the back of a couch in green cammo shorts. They said their hellos and names, as Sheila noticed the soft furs running up the inside of this tall woman’s thighs. While the hair on Brita’s head was cropped, the down on her arms and the two mustaches above the eyes, glistened below the lamplight. Sheer radiance, Sheila thought, as their preliminary facts (“actually I wasn’t born in America. I was born in Poland then when I was fourteen months my parents, who are diplomats, took me to England, then at sixteen months to Florida,” Brita said, outlining the start of her life) before they were interrupted by the start of the game.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dutch cat story

Witte poes yawned. She stretched her supple back and each white limb and paw. Her pink-tinted ears twitched, picking up the morning sounds of a tram clanging outside. It was nice in her window in the morning. The sun rose across the way and made it warm and sunny. She could sit there, stretching and cleaning herself, as she watched the humans go by. “This is the life,” she thought, flexing her claws and stretching out her forelimbs.

Marieke already fed her, so there was no hunger in her little cat-tummy. Marieke was witte poes’ owner. She was a young painter and her favourite thing to paint was witte poes. It made witte poes feel like a star. In the window there were portraits of witte poes sitting, witte poes standing, witte poes lying down. There were painting of wittes poes stretching, with eyes open, with eyes closed, all kinds of pictures of witte poes. Marieke particularly liked painting witte poes’ eyes since they were so unusual: one yellow and one blue. Witte poes, too, thought her eyes were her best feature. They mistified people and other cats alike. In fact, witte poes was quite proud of her striking eyes.

“I sssssssspy with my little eyeeeeee,” a grumbly voice growled from nowhere, making witte poes’ hair stand on end. She tensed her back and looked around wildly before she recognised the voice and the pop and hiss of static she was hearing. She sighed. “Don’t do that, Spy Cat.” She could just imagine him grinning at her fright next door. “Sorry,” he purred, “just testing the two-way bug and speaker system I planted at your place the other day.”
“I’ll find it and pee on it,” Witte Poes pouted, unhappy. Spy cat was always doing things like this. He lived in the spy shop next door and saw himself as a kind of feline James Bond. It was a weird shop with radios and gadgets and all kinds of technical equipment, and Spy Cat always boasted that he knew how to use it all. He loved trying out new gadgets. “Have you installed a camera too?”
“No, but I was just thinking it would be great to have a two way video monitor. I could place one in your shop and have one in mine, and when we need to go on important missions I can contact you.”
To Spy Cat everything was a mission.

Ordwell on the Purple Line, part 1

The tracks began to tremble, tremble, and the commuters’ feet, not so athletic, stayed in one place, so the commuters trembled, trembled as well. Giant fans were that day plugged into the wall at the subway station, and the outlets had dirt and grime all over them as a reminder that one is not at home yet.

Mr. Ordwell dreaded summer each year. After all, the weather got much warmer, and his clothing as perennial as it was, wasn’t used to adapting to new circumstances, such as heat. The air, odors, and particles in the MBTA Customer Service booth tumbled like a gymnast each time a train approached. Everything up in the air! The only smooth landings from the ruckus were the flaps of a certain oversized jacket as they wafted back towards the large hips from which they had leaped when the frenzy was over. They had the advantage of being attached to Mr. Ordwell, who was the expert on such things as train wafts; the foul scents of the tracks often wafted towards, and then hovered over, his lunch each day.

Mr. Ordwell knew so much about train wafts probably because he knew so much about trains. He could identify a train using any combination of two senses: eyes and ears, nose and taste, eyes and touch, or nose and touch, et cetera. But one day, with his eyes and nose peeled, Mr. Ordwell had to open up a third sense as well: his ears. The train that was approaching didn’t smell like dill weed, as the 3:55 Green Line train normally did after Gardner Guttenberg got on.


[An ending?] He returned home, a place where he was very glad to be, not because it was a place that provided him the reasons for a complete contentment, but because it was at least not anywhere near as strange as the regions he’d passed through that day on his altogether unexpected excursion on the Violet Line. All rides on that branch must be unplanned, he thought to himself as he took slowly the three steps to his dingy door. If they were planned, I would have seen them on the schedule! Then he was in the door, and if not happy to be home than happy he was not elsewhere.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Jack went for a swim, because he had time, because he had nowhere else to be and nothing else to do. For its 38 years, his body still felt young with its runner’s torso, its quick perceptive musculature. The body that holds the memory of all that has happened to it. A puckered white scar from an appendectomy. The small constellation of moles on his back. He felt the hairs on his legs raise slightly in the chill. The beach was windy and cooler as he walked closer to the sea. It would be cold. He knew it would be cold. Even in August, the waters in Maine were always cold – so far north. But he believed, without reason, that a cold sea was cleaner. The water was purer somehow than water further south. Even as it churned up the bottom sand, it was clean. The sand felt fine under his feet. No seaweed to tangle up his legs. Nothing to be wary of on the bottom – no jellyfish or urchins. Occasionally he would see a dead crab wash up ashore. And then he would toe around it gingerly, avoiding the pincers and carapace, even though the animal could no longer attack or defend itself. With his big toe, he might dig a divot in the wet sand and push the crab in – a little funeral so the gulls would not pick at the body. Respect for the dead who do not care anymore about respect. Jack supposed if the dead were crabs, they probably never cared about respect to begin with.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Sister, memorious

Years later I told my sister that dog story, for a laugh. She looked curiously at me, and said it never happened. Surprising. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but consider her word over mine. She remembered every moment, like a file indexed in an office shelf. She double checked the files, came up blank, and denied this recollection lucid as the city on a clear day from my office window.
My sister’s mind is a storage of memories. Mine is like the fossil record, missing whole sections in blurs and composites.
She has written in her diary innumerable events. The breakfast meal, the prices for a sprinkler, the brand our dog ate, the times our mother went to the bathroom, the murder of two women in the news that day, the current date and what happened on a similar date four hundred years ago (something Queen Elizabeth was eating, an evening with Raleigh, a war), and she’d tell me some of these things that she vomited on the pages in the most inscrutable chicken scratches anyone has ever read. One composition notebook every three weeks. Thousands went by. And she still keeps them stacked in her condo house in California. I asked her if she reread them, like a scholar rereads the pages of a thousand volume novel. But no, she remembered every page.
Now she rents a room in a condo complex with a very sad looking woman. The place is fully carpeted a filthy blue, the kind which easily stains and stinks with the smallest effort. They looked over the reservoir, which is very pretty at night, a shade of green against the dock boats, and the three story library just around the corner. But how did these two ever meet? The girl named Amora, what a terrible name, she looked like a former drug addict. Kind of diminutive, droopy eyed, with baggy pants and a look to her red swollen eyes that say “I don’t give a fuck.” She cackled a few major octaves over her normal monotone voice. My sister tells me she was in a group home for troubled teen girls, smokes pot regularly, and dates every few months the same girl who at the end of every cycle screams and screams and acts like a nutcase. Amora is 27, four years older than my sibling, but might look 18 for the rest of her life.


When he thought of Sarah, he thought of salt on her upper lip. That perspiration that was not so much a wilting as a blooming. Her skin was lit from inside, radiating light like Caravaggio’s bodies. (She knew about painting. He did not, but she had shown him her art books – his painting of Salome holding John the Baptist’s head on a platter; her chest illuminated white in the darkness of the room, like the muscular torso of a young boy lit from the side and staring down at head of the Baptist. They are all placid – the severed head particularly so.) Her skin was not so much the floodlit white of Salome or of the Madonna, but an earthy, dirty blush – all red clay and body heat.

In August, with no air conditioning in their city apartment, they had a fan going all the time. Sarah would sit in front of it, place an ice cube between her breasts and let it melt like butter in a pan. It slicked her skin like butter and joined the salt of her sweat. He loved the look of it – wet skin that threw off reflections, the hint of steam as water rose to vapor. He would reach out and touch a breast, nuzzle and suckle it like a calf, and she would chuckle low and hold his head, clutch his damp hair in her fist.

Those days were good: no TV, just the radio and the fan and the cramped apartment. They would have oranges bought by the bag for breakfast and strong coffee, read the paper, compete to see who could get the most words in the crossword puzzle first. Sarah, Sarah, Sarah.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

passages from a fictional memoir (part 2)

(cont. from may 26th)
.........It reminds me how later that day I stood on another pile of snow (the yard was stacked several feet, still the tallest storm I've ever seen) and walked to where the basketball hoop stood up to it's neck ( the pole's neck I should say, just under where the octogon was attached). I leaned over and touched the strings. I knew this would only happen once. I'd never be a basketball player, let alone someone who could dunk, so what was waiting for me? I wasn't even a fan of sports, and I hoped, thinking this when I was eleven, I wouldn't ruin my life and turn into a janitor. So this was the first and maybe only time I'd ever pull these looped, knotted strings. I can't even remember if I stuck a ball through them. I must have, why not? But for that moment I pulled the strings. It may seem inconsequential, as slight as those little cloths a little thicker than my shoe laces, bit tied tighter than my bathroom belt I'm wearing right now. But so often in the years we do things dozens of times, like taking the same route on a train or walking into the same bathroom on the fourth floor of an office building that used to be a factory and is now a storage facility, and we do other things only once that we don't know fate and nature has slapped a period on, like finishing Moby dick with the hope of rereading it one day, the restaurant in Florida with the best quesadillas you've ever tried (crispy bread, peppers and ricotta cheese without a hint of spice) for which you lose the address and title for, and a pretty paramour, or two, I've lived a long life--that how often do we get to do something for one time only, and know it is the last we'll get to feel it in our ungloved dry fingers. Oh right, flights to china. Maybe if you’re lucky a hike up Kilimanjaro. But how often do you get to feel that foreign taste in your front yard. Perhaps that sentiment of getting all that I need from my immediate space was why I didn't travel much. Or led this page slim life?

Second Nightfall

Cathartic boulevards manifest as green belle mountain
men in shuels of soft, suppliant leaves an ephervescent green
leaves me seeping, sappy verdania. Tilia americana, your evening
fullness lures me into love as you lawy about your wide-spread leaves,
city pastures presevered in academic maniucre, bastions of wealth and
pleasant comfort amngst the rough, tawdry edges of city pavement
and chainlink fencing. We take respite here, where large burly oaks
and rheumentoid crab apples go out to pasture.
As resplendant clay, the trees silt-molded with our newly whetted hands,
we come eye-to-eye with our just-kissed histories, a rendez-vous with the devil.
My tearing eyeballs, new to the winds, playtoys of medalion, verdancy, play at the
fantasy of second nightfall that the trees confjure beneath their storied leaves.

Against the fence, the blue gaze of new evening watches as a tall
you man is splayed out by a lustful little girl,
as a star-fish plucked form her ocean.
She rushes at him full-force, her mouth meeting his open one,
she knocks sunglasses from his face
and down toward his nose,
his human back pressed against the fence,
his leather-jacketed body completely at a loss:
momentum rides body, then mind in only so many ways!

Above them, the space station hurtles in continuous circumnavigation around the Earth,
the bright lights at a speed of motion which is visible to the human eye, just for a moment
before it turns around the arced plane of the Earth.

Below me, the damp grass begins an ignominious enticement to exploration.

The Marginal Way 3

I don’t know why I go there to eat. It is a tourist destination, and I am not a tourist. I think I like slipping among them for a while, though, disguised in sunglasses and sweatshirt. I am unnoticed and unnoticeable, vanilla-bland. Too old to be one of the horse-eyed waiters; too young to be one of the summer folk come to settle down through August. In Florida, they call them snowbirds when they come in the winter. But here it is desolate in January and December. The salty air is tough on buildings; paint chips and cracks off the motels; winter storms erode the dunes. No one walks on the beach in winter. So different from right now, with all the bustle of summer and the smell of dune roses and sunscreen everywhere.

I go into Lobster Bob’s. It smells like steam. A teenager takes my order – steamers and beer. As I sit and eat, I notice I am the only one here alone. The rest are families, or pairs of oldies, or young couples. No matter. I don’t mind sitting alone. Although it is new for me. I used to go to restaurants with Sarah – the quiet assurance of her small body near mine, the warmth that radiated off her at the end of the day. It is strange not to have her shadowing. I’ve never been this alone.

It is dark on the restaurant’s patio, but I can still see the water and the way it throws up the moon’s reflection once in a while, and the reflection of the restaurant lights. Boats clink against one another moodily, like ice in a glass.

The Spectacle

She rose and offered the elderly man her seat after he boarded and fretted a moment, mashing his closed lips, looking unsteady. He left his bags on the rubber flooring in front of the rear door where he came on, and made his way down half the length of the bus. Without shifting their gazes, the knot of strap-hangers loosened to let him through without other acknowledgment. With arthritic slowness, he turned until his pants were positioned above the seat and his chest angled as a counter-balance into the aisle. The riders to either side of him winced when he sat with a thump; they’d just caught wind of his goat-like aroma.

Standing now, she watched the black man with the cup of orange soda. Without having a reason she was proud to admit, she kept her eye on him.

It takes two, baby / It takes two, baby... that’s me and you.” As he sang, his arms flapped crazily, expressive of good feelings and a flirty mood. Both were covered in healed scars, and muscle tissue was missing. Maybe an angry, hungry pit bull. How could she ask? He didn’t seem self-conscious; perhaps his loudness and vim were his way of defying the natural feelings of discomfort are companions to deformity. He sang, he bragged, he greeted each new rider as they walked past:

“Hey baby, we’re feeling good to-day, am I right? Hoo, look at sister here! She’s looking proud with that new weave, ha-ha-ha, no baby, you know it’s good. It’s hot, who’s hot, we hot, she’s hot, it takes two baby, just me an’ you.” Each time he repeated the refrain, he pointed—with his whole body—to the woman sitting next to him.

The standing woman, marked as a Samaritan by her donation of a seat and a Catholic by her St. Christopher medal, kept watching him, and glancing over to other riders to see who else was watching. The husky boy in the button-down was, and they as they noticed each other they shared a glance in solidarity. The huskier boy, a student by the look of his backpack and uncharacteristic slacks, was not, and kept his eyes pointed out the window at the apartment buildings and storefronts passing by in spurts.

He sang more loudly, and swung his arms more aggressively, more flamboyantly, tracing switchbacks with his hand and snapping his fingers, writhing in his seat. He pressed his fleshy body against the girl next to him as if they’d known each other for years and she was the one female friend he trusted, and since the only one, the one that had to suffice to suffer all his sublimated physical attentions, with his experiments in making physical contact less excruciating, less alien. His face glistened unbecomingly with the effort; the bumps on his cheeks at the base of most hairs sparkled.

Yolanda—the name hung in each of her heart-shaped earrings—tried to hide her face entirely in the space between her shoulder and the window. Finally the standing woman couldn’t watch any longer, and pushed her way to the front of the bus. At the next stop, she leaned across the payment console and said brief, informative things to the driver.

The driver rose out of her seat like a mother whose lost her patience, and pointed directly at the offender: “Do you know her? Don’t you talk to her. Honey, is he harassing you? Do you know him?”

He howled hurtfully about freedom of speech, and can’t a brother just be friendly, can’t a person smile and say hello, hello, and be nice to people, and what was wrong with her. But the driver wasn’t having it; she waggled her magenta-painted, no-nonsense acrylic tip right back at him, and made impressive statements about disturbing the peace and how one has to know better. Even as she sat back down, the beam of her irritation bounced off the rear-view mirror into his face. His protests grew louder and louder, louder than his original singing and come-ons: “This is America and I can say what I want where I want.” Then she hit on it: “Okay baby, just keep it down.”

“That sounds better,” he said, mollified.

When he gets off the bus a few blocks later, he starts to spin like a roller disco queen the moment he hits the sidewalk. His orange soda stays in his cup despite not having a lid, despite his dancing and gyrations. As the bus pulls away, he spreads his legs wide and bends at the knees and hips, dropping his backside closer to the pavement. With his arms raised in a Pentecostal gesture of praise, it looks like he’s still singing, though the interior of the bus is hushed now. He waves flirtatiously and dismissively to the driver as she takes off.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Announcement

When Thursday morning announcements started over the PA, it wasn’t the voice of Vice Principal O’Brien with today's lunch menu lunch menu or his usual reminder that respectful behavior in the hallways is ‘a good way to finish a good week well.

“Alright y’all this is Tameka Ritts”—the students whooped in recognition—“and you know I don’t play so listen lemme tell you it ain’t right that Miz Wilkes is in trouble jus cuz she was behind us when we walked on Friday—”

When their classmate mentioned last week’s walkout protest, seniors in their homerooms began to whoop more loudly. The school board had recently folded to external pressure, and replaced the hallway soda machines with fresh fruit dispensers. The seniors in their outrage and their nothing-to-lose mood, had cooked up a walkout, spreading the word with Facebook and SMS.

At eleven-eleven in the morning, twenty seniors and nearly a hundred underclassmen left their classes, and went outside to gather at the school welcome sign. Some inside operative had changed the electronic team-pride signboard to read HOME OF THE COKE NAZIS. Cars honked; freshmen yelled earnest, profane slogans in defense of cola freedom. Tameka had worn a Coke-red bikini to school under her street clothes, and soon after the protest began she’d stripped down and drawn a white swirl across her drum-tight torso with body paint.

Several teachers were sent outside as well, to preserve calm if not order. Ms. Carrie Wilkes wasn't one of those assigned to monitor the walkout, but was there nonetheless. Juniors in her AP History course had often heard her compare the protests against U.S. troops in Iraq to the bygone demonstrations one used to see on university campuses, against sweatshop-made collegiate apparel and low wages for the janitors. The previous fall, she’d been involved as club advisor when the Interact Club organized a boycott of Danon, Bic, and Michelin, to push back against the French nuclear testing in the Pacific

“—and she had our back when the administration”—she continued with a challenging sneer—“wouldn’t respect our assembling and say what we gotta say. She’s the best teacher this school has and they mad crazy to try to pluck her like a flower and plant a thistle like she says—”

Students in Ms. Wilke’s fourth-year homeroom responded in a variety of ways. Several kept their heads down, focused on their phones with the kind of concentration usually reserved for deciphering cuneiform. Many kept listening with their heads, energized by scandal, as if waiting to see how long Tameka could keep talking without getting pinched. A few turned their heads toward Ms. Wilkes—if not admiring her liberal attitude toward student activism, then impressed with her involvement in this brief furor. Ms. Wilkes blanched.

Another voice could be heard in the background of the room at the other end of the PA, growing louder as its speaker approached the unseen microphone: Mr. O’Brien. “That is absolutely enough Miss Jones get your hand off that mic right now no don’t move over there put that mic down and give it to me sit down sit down.”

Tameka was talking over him as he attempted to shut down her broadcast: “No I gotta be heard like Ms. Wilkes said don’t you put your hand on me don’t you dare touch me who do you think you are you can’t touch me you ain’t my master no I won’t they gonna take away prom we gotta rise up don’t Mistah O come on—”

Her voice vanished abruptly, and O’Brien came on. “Alright, folks, settle down. The insurrection”—more whooping—“has come to an end. I expect us all to work together so we can finish our good week well. We are out of time this morning to share community news, so please wait for your homeroom teachers to release their classrooms. Let’s begin first period on time, and with respect for our responsibilities.”

From his poster to the left of the classroom door, Abraham Lincoln stared out at them with a saying written across his upper chest: “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better.” On the other side of the whiteboard was a poster that brought a little heat on when she first arrived two years ago—O’Brien had erroneously called it a bugbear. From that poster, Malcolm X looked fiercely out the windows, beyond the senior parking lot and the tennis courts. His admonition was written in the space around his head like a corona: “If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything.”

In Ms. Wilkes’ room, and only her room, the ancient call-box squealed, announcing an incoming call from the school office. Her students stopped chattering, all turned their attention to her. Some parts of her face became paler; others flushed a painful-looking red. The space between her eyebrows was drawn into a deep notch, and was an especially bright crimson. She walked the few steps from her desk to the wall, and picked up the receiver. Whatever voice was on the other end delivered its instructions; she nodded wordlessly, and exited the room without looking again at the students.

passages from a fictional memoir (part 1)

These are my memoirs. I've started typing at eleven past nine and thought I would go on until Friday with breaks of course for sleep, shower (shit shave and shampoo as my father called it), the afternoon in the library, and the evening with the zoology gang at St. Mary’s pub, but now it's two past one am (I've backtracked of course so I could write the first paragraph last, sort of like I got used to doing when I was sixteen, at the high school in warm new York, when writing a thesis) and I've reached the last significant scene in my life with only the width of the piece you hold in your hand (barely over the length of your nose if, like me, you enjoy smelling pages, especially in a book, the smooth texture against one’s nose and the edges scraping the stubble on your cheeks )--or, more likely, five jabs of the page-down key. God damn me, have I led a shrunken life? I lived every moment when it was present and it never felt sped up faster than my sister's or a stranger's. But now it does look rushed. Only a bit.
Oh hell, it was a fun trek. It had its moments, like my dad tossing my dog over the snow bank, after we had that blizzard that closed school for a week in the fifth grade. The terrier got his paws locked in the snow immediately and couldn't jump free. In the gallows, poor boy, panicked as he looked over our heads for the first time (my dad was five feet nine inches tall and I was on my way to surpass that, until I was the tallest in the Starch family from here to Ireland). The dog’s view past our snow-whitened hairs past the two cars, the boulders where I used to jump from into the arms of the birch, for that tiny Toto puppy would have awed him if he stopped thrashing.......

The Marginal Way 2

These heads – the buoys – wink at me when they lift on a swell. Sleek as seals. And I keep walking, looking by, wondering about the lobstermen. I can almost smell the dank rubber of their boots and hear their squeak along the deck. Unpleasant smells, messiness, cold, and brine. And always the marginal hours: mornings and evenings when there is no sun to heat up the chill coastal air, and there is only brutal uncertain darkness.

As I keep walking along the path, I am safe and dry. My cotton sweatshirt has that crisp smell of clean laundry; it swaddles me. It is like the smell of bakery-fresh bread: wholesome, somehow. A million miles away from the lobstermen. I know at the end of the walk will be a bright-lit cove full of tourist shops and restaurants. Retirees with matching t-shirts and baseball caps, walking hand in hand. A young couple, the father pushing a stroller while his wife says something to him and gestures with her hands. And the summer boys and girls who work the restaurants. They don’t make much, but they don’t seem to care particularly either. They look healthier than people elsewhere, with their eyes a dark-bright shiny, and their long tanned legs. The waiters run up and down in their white shorts; the muscles in their legs twitch. They are like young horses, agitated and in love with their own youth and with the steam of the kitchen, the generous tips and winks of the old couples eating lobster.


The cusp of summer heat burns moth holes
into the bottom edge of spring's eggshell drawings:
a diaphanous precursor to heat,
a gauzy cape to last summer's love and this spring's meeting.
The nascent warmth is nothing but a forecast to Cape Verdian
love knots.

Beetle Crossings

Today is the first day I remember growing roses.
There is something about morning, damp with moisture
just cool enough to create a sultry haze, but warm enough to draw scent from primroses.
The cusp of summer heat burns moth holes at the bottom edge of spring's eggshell drawings:
it's not quite spring and not quite summer. A beetle attempts a long crossing across
two lanes of auto traffic and two lanes of bicycle traffic.
I wonder how it knows its way to the other side.

Just Spring creates a transcendence, a northern tropical jungle so lush
that I duck beneath dewy canopies of jade leaves and curl around
delicate, beveled roses and dewy lilies of France. Why should I ever find my way out?
I am instantly transported to my youth: park-like shade, flower smells and bettles,
mulchy undergrowth begging a finger dip or black toe-nail curl.

Red bricks line the sidewalks in irregular elevations, each a bird
with its own version of due-North. Today is the first day I am reminded
of growing strawberries, the vines tangled and the berries not there,
then there.

A tiny shoot of water sprinkles the birth tree, the black dirt, the creepers.
I am most at home here with the aphids, just humming
away. The Japanese maples, green, fanning delicate feathers
across arched doorways and wooden portholes:
a red-orange bloom, still lounging in the pot.
Rarely does the red-breasted nuthatch cross the
lane so casually.

An ochre yellow house across the street reflects Italian summers.
Red roses flagrantly mock black latticed windows and stucco,
stark, standing, startled awake: a kind of history worth saving.
I remember growing roses.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Our Investigation of, Part 1

Clarke’s observation—that advanced technology will often be misconstrued as magic—is a good starting point as we begin to consider the sheen of omnipotence glowing somberly under the screen edges of This most frequently visited of all sites is spoken of by the digital cognoscenti as a ‘search engine’, but it does not search; it finds. Is this not an intelligent function? Does it not demand an explanation that accounts not just for its computational action, but for its uncanny quickness, its possession of a facility of selection that we have hitherto in our history only seen before in intelligent beings born of other intelligent beings—namely, in persons—or in persons born not at all, but made, namely, spirits?

I have held my ear against the red steel walls of cargo containers housing server clusters in half a dozen locations spread across the city (and in how many other cities?). These are placed in plain view but away from public traffic: north of the Charles River dam, in that waste industrial zone; in formerly vacant lots adjoining the rail yards; in a spandrel space outlined by the Esplanade before and below, and by east- and west-bound express lanes on either side. What I have heard in each of these thickly-insulated partitions of the Ogle nervous system is a hum. Not the chuffing of an engine, built by and comprehensible to men, but a baffling chord thrumming in the air. The vibrations of unseen organs. On each of these encounters, I had to pull my face away from the container wall when my teeth began to ache in sympathetic harmony.

The nature of these facilities—their hiddenness and protective vibrations—has all the appearance of magic, even if we resist any explanation smacking of the primitive of superstitious. As we must.

Iconoclastic Bunny

Iconoclastic bunny my mind is exploding with possibilities and I don't know what to do or how to satiate this need, desire, drive ambition, an arm-leg thrust so powerful I foall into a myriad of potentiate opportunity and hpatasmagoreic being. Oh, opiate alternatiave beingo of the masses, wherforeout are my desires to be satiatedin such a plentiful narrow-midned vast and unspirialing world of opportunity- in my mind's eye surely, more quikcly, faster and cleer, celerit, celeritus sum than any alternate univers,e black hole symbiotic cohension relationship could ever define on the axial arm of the milky way galaxy's dangling dot arm of a plant- swallowed up in Einsteinian emptiness glamour- electrons exciting phatasmagoreic swellings, some drup,e druid, droopy headed fetus exreteing life from bone and mottled red nad white flesh to become the kunk orchid, intrepidly, insurrectedly seductive, drunk lust liquor to the fly, and with enough convincing the homeopathic hominid imitates the tiy-bity squlatundripidous fly and convinces us veil-like to drench ourselves in unspoken words. A silent ether-reality (etherreality) in which you love me the wya I've alwyas loved you- the preternatural vacuum where no (but most likely so few) molecules exist that I fear we've brought a chuck of outer-space down here with us, and if we let it out, we'd have to follow it arou nd, chasing after it like a moth trapped against the brightness of the torch-like prch lamp, dropping feathered dowdy bodies of them every which way like paper cuts layering themselves wieth snowflake thickness, swiftness, too many musty yellow pages to care, and yet their morbidity darkens us somewhow and we run from the lamp with screams and twitches of anxiety, fearing to be brushed, dropped upon and cursed by one of their soulless biological carcasses. Vacuums are like this. I have an intimate affair, a love-reality with vacuums and writing this here is almost too gaudy, self-absorbed, illicit (please, you must admit this) to Not be caught writing this (w)right now. Can they see me at work? Cna they see how comforta ble, inimitable my induglence is and, ah, how illicit such a behavior should be-and yet I am not deviating any more than the bored or mostly aware web-browser would. Hence, the knife-like sharpness and seduction of the poem, the imagination, in such times of "confinement." The pleasure of escape within confinement, the trick of time-capitalizing, is almost too much to bear. How far down will I fall, Alice? What does the bottom feel like with regard to poetic and/or stream of consciousness blather/ artistry (will defint what exactly it is later)?

The onions

(note: I’m planning on using this section somewhere near the climax of an unwritten story, for which I had already made known that the narrator is allergic to onions)

His eye passed over me like the wind on a cold night in May. Chilling, where before I had taken this young man as happily aloof, someone who stared at computers breakfast to dinner and never took action against a beetle his whole life. Then I notice the tingling in my neck. He had opened the window in my kitchen, the one where I kept two pots of herbs on a windowsill. A car drove by, the wind rustled the branches like someone raking leaves, and then a cop car rang its siren toward the subway station from where I just came. A match was struck. No, he was turning on the stove. Then he picked up a crusted old pan. He retrieved from his bag a small sandwich bag filled with white. They were onions. I knew that instantly. He opened the seal, then upended it over the cutting board.
The stench hardly surprised me. My sinuses ignited. Pervading the room as if deliberately targeting my throat, my eyes teared and I cried a sharp hiccup. There wasn’t nothing left to say but a crude “cuntissue,” a curse word I invented several years beforehand. My murderer stroked a pre-cut flake of onion and ran his index finger over my lips. The match may as well be lighting me on fire. My throat clenched and blocked all food and sound. I’d become his silent victim, no more speech than the woodpecker fluttering on the tree, or the moth stuttering through the window and into the half lit kitchen.
I was once stung by a bee at recess when I was seven.

The Marginal Way

The Marginal Way is a winding strip of macadam, a mile in length. It ribbons off Shore Road, from an upscale resort, the Anchorage by the Sea. Each year I have walked it, it has remained unchanged. Yes, it has been repaved; the rotten wooden benches have been replaced with the new ones; the trash cans have been repainted, thier dented metal covered with genteel wooden slats. But the inclines and dips of the path remain the same. The juniper trees remain in their elegant contortions on the shore’s edge. And each time I pass a clump of beach plums, I smell their rosewater fragrance.

Tonight is warm and unwindy. I walk the familiar bends thinking about the Atlantic below. The surf come up like the frilled hem of a skirt and fills the spaces between rock and pebble. Between each rock and hard place, each scylla and charybdis of southern Maine. There are some thunderholes that boom when the tide fills them and I thrill a little – the hairs on my arms stand up straight – when the tide rushed in. But I feel safe walking on the macadam above, behind the guard rail (even if it is just chain link).

The ocean below doesn’t frighten me. It minds its own business and I mind mine. But I wonder about it sometimes. About the lobster buoys bobbing and winking. When do the lobstermen come by to haul them up? I never see the boathands out pulling in lenghts of rope, but the buoys are constant. Sometimes they look like gulls on the water, and sometimes like lost parts of human figures – heads above the surf.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Pleiades

Some people are bursting with stories; I am not. The eight bones that form a vault over my brain do not house stories. A constellation of thought, yes. A Pleiades of scattershot impressions. Those seven sisters dance in my head: Maia, Electra, Taygete, Alcyone, Celaeno, Sterope, and Merope. The nymphs born of their father, the titan Atlas, and their mother, the sea nymph Pleione who was known to protect sailors. The seven sisters trip over their own white feet, pursued by Orion the hunter. So the story goes. Their dresses weigh them down, those unbearably light nymphs. They trip over the heavy fabric of their gowns, the linen that creases and billows like sailcloth in the breeze. Artemis, the great huntress, begs mercy for them. Mercy, mercy, she begs Zeus. So Zeus turned the seven sisters into stars. Although some say they were first changed to doves. Thoughtless storytellers turn them into feathers and flight. A constellation of doves; a flight of white and gray and dawn-fingered-pink wing bursting from the heart of sky. And then receding, disappearing up, up, up into the night and becoming Mallarm√©’s constellations: words spread across the sky: whitened and wing; the expansive wingspan like a hull, and the vessel rocked from side to side. Sisters to birds to words, and finally to stars. These are the constellations that fill my head under the darkened skydome of the occipital and parietal bones. And the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup trill out their night song: a constellation of bone within my head, white as the seven sisters and singing out their siderial music.

Alice in Wonderland Meets The Edge of The Universe

She fell itno an unassuming postion,
that of a pear just falling from the sky,
apinted a mauve-maroon.
"Today is the day I'll contemplate
the existence of the universe."
An unassuming bombastic blue bird flew
over her feet (since her head was below her feet
at this very moment). She felt that a painter
had white-washed the sky, but in maroon
with a very liquidy watercolor paint.
There was a lot of white space in between.
Two cheeful elephants walked by muttering
how if gravity were tied into the same continuum
as time why they had to be both wrinkled And fat.
The grass below their near-round foot-prints
was colored a dark tropical tourquoise.
In this position, she was either a snail, a molusk,
or an upside-eown guinea-pig. A pig, she decided
as she fingered he straw-colored blonde hair
(her hair was indeed made of straw, so this would make sense).
A porcupine waddled by propogating great philosophical ideas.
"If God and the sould are the same thing, then wehre does that leave me?
Does it in fact leave me, or am I god and the soul?"
And he continuued on. She struggled to regain control over her
own cetner of gravity, and as she did so, tyouched her very
smooth gray shoes. "How does oen make gray, the most
unappetizing of colors?" Gray is indeed strange, she decided,
neither red, nor blue, nor brown when all the colors in the
box of crayons are furiously combined. As she rocked
her body so as to obtain a skywoard orientation for her head,
she noticed an orange oraungatang floating free form
through the canopy of the strawberry-pink weeping cherry tree.
"Oh, how can I possibly seek to explain what I don't know,
when what I thought I knew no longer applies?" she exclaimed.
The orange oruangatang sent her a valentine on a paper plane,
just whisking this way and that down through the brankches.
"Dear Maria, I love you as a crocadile loves chocolate fudge brownies.
Love, orange floating oruangatang." "Now that doesn't make any sense,
for I don't even know if crocadiles eat brownies!" she remarked with
undetones of sadness and despair. She imagined being eaten by a
very large gray-green corcadile, and began to shudder uncontrollably.
Just then, a normal looking white rat strutted nonchalantly by.
"Maybe he can help me solve the great questions of the universe," she thought.
"At least he appears to follow some of the laws of gravity and what humans
perceive as one of the ma ny accepted rat colors iwthin the visible
light specturm." And this is where she failed, since, indeed,
what she was seeking was exactly what she was not looking for.
To be looking for something was to define it before
it was found, and thus, to lose sight of it completely.
Then to the respectable-looking rat,
"Oh, Mr. Rat, could you please explain to me
why time is shaped like cupid's arrow?" Mr. Rat huffed and
announced noisily that littled girls have much better things to
be doing than lying on their backs with their feet in the air.
THe white rate begain to change an alarming shade of yellow,
and he abruptly begain strutting backwards, then sideways,
then sideways-up, and then he disappeared altogether.
"Oh, now I shall never know the answers to the existence of the
universe and my role in it." Just then she began to float
toward the maroon-washed sky (just her unappealing gray shoes
and blue-painted toes, actually). Her toes waved good-bye
to her. And, to her alarm, she waved good-bye back to them.

Wanted: Kings! (in all but coronation)

Are you angry? Are you accused of arrogance? Are you hostile toward censure and regulation? Do you resist supervision? Are you irritated by instructions delivered by the innumerable apparatchiks prospering in our present period of civic atonia?

If your answer to these is a grim and glowering affirmation of your unacknowledged greatness, we have business to discuss, oh yes.

We are Gryllus and Bombina. Our professional reputation is such that you will hear us spoken of only in tones of uninflected admiration or else in envy; our credentials run to volumes; our record is peerless. We have made it our life’s work to identify and advance young men who are made to possess power, not to submit to it.

Aggressive, narcissistic men who are today diagnosed with personality disorders on the antisocial spectrum may have been the successful warrior-kings of old. Now, we can’t offer you a kingdom,* but we will pay you a kingly sum and arrange for you to enter into such circumstances in which your inborn and indomitable will to power may flourish and receive full measure of reward.

Candidates who rank highly in our evaluation will be taken under contract. We will train you in all the technical and intuitive arts of leadership: strategy, rhetoric, intrigue, grit, diligence, and the confidence of character that acts without apology. You, in your role, will rule. Our contracts are tailored to fit all manner of circumstances—sub rosa, coup d’etat, satrapy, etc.—the whole range of imaginable polity.

Do not doubt that you were made to rule. Authority is the birthright of strength—we can help you wield it.

Call today and allow us to arrange for an interview with one of our field representatives.

* Except in certain geopolitical circumstances. Many are the ways to a throne, and our particular expertise is in recognizing and capitalizing upon opportunities of unusual rarity.

Brita and Sheila

From Brita’s last breath to the first moment Shiela learned the news, her lungs nearly collapsing and her sinuses clearing, four days passed. Had she been alive, those four days would be a terrible blow to Brita. She had hoped, impossible as it would be, that the word of her death would spread instantly. The greatest sin to her mind was being unfriendly, and being unpunctual was chief on that list. After all, she called her girlfriend Shiela every night. And her parents once a week. And dead, what rudeness.
But Brita was crushed by a subway car on a Tuesday morning, on a day in April when the sky was filmed over, the temperature into the low numbers of a February night. For four days, when the wind gradually exhausted itself and the numbers rose from the dead Tuesday chill, until a radiant Friday, Sheila, the love of Brita’s life, would live and work as if Brita did the same.
Sheila burst into Brita’s life with the absurdity of the Atlantic flying fish. Like that glistening silver creature, Brita first found Sheila on a rickety front porch, partly illuminated by the buzzing glare of a neighbor’s moth-light. Brita was at a Superbowl party, for a brief stay, when Sheila walked out for a smoke. She had fleshy hands, attractive biceps, and partly white hair that turned the color of Neptune beside the porch lamp. A wavy strand of hair always managed to hover between her green eyes, like the flying fish’s skipping trail. She smiled Brita’s way, and they talked about their work. Sheila worked as an assistant researcher for the Boston Aquarium. Brita at a UPS store. Sheila told her she could never survive such a demeaning job. Brita hated her instantly....

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Introducing the Summer Journal

The Summer Journal is a collaborative writing project meant to stimulate the creativity of its members; engender a disciplined habit of daily writing; and produce a stack of readable writing at the end of its one-hundred day duration.

How it works:

1. Members are asked to write 250 words of fresh prose or verse each day, for each of the 100 days of the Journal period, i.e., from Monday, May 24th to Tuesday, August 31st.
2. Members submit their daily quota to the Summer Journal blog, as a new blog entry (these may be private or public, according to the author's preference).
3. The Journal manager will check in each Sunday to see whether entries have been logged for each of the previous seven days (last Sunday to the Saturday immediately before the current Sunday).
4. Any member who has failed to log an entry will be assessed a one-dollar penalty.
5. In the first weeks of September, the members will gather to plan and produce a print anthology comprising a best-of selection of the summer's writing.
6. The penalty pot will go toward a summer's-end debauchery, likely to involve food and drink and music.

If you'd like to participate, leave a comment on this introductory message. Keep in mind that you're held to the same standards as all other members, so if you jump into the fray only in the middle of June, you'll incur a penalty for each missing entry dating back from the time of your joining. All's fair.