Sunday, March 28, 2010

Panem et Circenses

Love is bullshit. Emotion is bullshit.
I am a rock. A jerk. I'm an uncaring
asshole and proud of it.
                                    ~ Chuck Palahniuk

Thank you, but I don’t need anyone to stay the night, you try to say. They’ve come to visit. To pay our respects, they tell you. It’s the least we can do, they tell one another. And you hear their crude and distasteful whispers. And you see the gleam of burdensome, self-inflicted responsibility on their faces. They’ve brought flowers and cards and casseroles. Just a little something to help out, they say. And you try to smile. To pretend like nothing has changed. But you had never asked for Graham’s brain to have a short and bleed without stopping until his heart had stopped, too.

Take a few days, Nadia, your boss tells you. As long as you need. And just as you’re thinking, As long as I need might be forever, Dr. Becker arrives. Late. As usual. He had arrived too late to save Graham the night his head had gone haywire, too. And he can’t seem to explain exactly what had happened that night. Cerebral aneurism is all he has to offer. And he doesn’t want you asking any questions, so he’s avoiding the subject, and he’s avoiding you like the plague. Life is complicated enough when it’s simple, right?

But nature has its secrets. And it has its ordinances, too. And today, Murphy’s Law has ordained that Dr. Becker be sitting right next to you on the ungenerously sized loveseat you and Graham had once shared for countless movies with countless bowls of buttered popcorn. And while small talk dribbles from one pair of lips to the other, Dr. Becker thinks to himself, somewhere in the back of his head, that by the time he sees you again (and he’s hoping that won’t be anytime soon) he will have found a slightly more detailed explanation for the death of your husband. But Dr. Becker's main focus is on something else. He tries, out of the corner of his right eye, to see the mark of Graham’s loss on your face, and in your body language. This is alternated with quick glances at his wife, Veronica, who is sitting across the coffee table from both of you. Would she be so “business as usual” if I suffered an aneurism and met my Maker? He wonders.

And you’re seeing all of it and hearing everything in between. Especially the quietly whispered conversation between Veronica and Frieda. I didn’t know what to write on the card, says Veronica. I feel so awkward. And Frieda says, It’s like being in a third world country and trying to communicate with the locals, right? And Veronica says, I just signed a condolence card from me and Charlie. I think she’ll appreciate that, don’t you? And Frieda says, Oh, definitely. How did he die, anyway? And Veronica says, An aneurism. And Frieda says, An aneurism? What’s that? And Veronica says, A fatal disease, I guess. I never did get around to asking Charlie. And the tears start to brew in your throat. But your eyes are dry. You don’t want to show them that what they just said has affected you so violently, or that you even heard it; that would be humiliating. You don’t want to show them that they matter so much.

And though it’s a strange evening, it passes. And over the following days they invite you over for dinner or snacks – the Mortons and the Dyers and the Taylors. And you accept their invitations – every time; you don’t want to start a domino effect of rejections. But one evening, as you’re driving to dinner with the Shermans, you make a U-turn and go back home. You call and apologize to Mandy. And Mandy says, Rain check, hon? You can hear the sigh of relief in her voice. And you say, Of course. I’ll call you. But you don’t call Mandy. And she doesn’t call you. Life is a lot easier without her having to deal with Nadia’s Curse, right? It’s as if your widowhood is contagious. Not to mention the insecurity. You’re a widow. Your husband is dead. You’re available. Oh! You’re available! All of a sudden, you’re a threat. You’re not to be trusted. You’re not to be left alone in a room with their husbands. You’re a bitch in heat and there is no man in your life to quench the fiery thirst between your legs. You want to be fucked, and any man will do. And they think about their potential future grief from another dimension – they might lose their men, not only to Nadia’s Curse, but to Nadia Herself. All of a sudden, you’re right up there with dangerous bodily malfunctions and death. You’re a probable contagion. And you’re lethal.

But over the following weeks, you start to tell yourself to mellow out. You start to tell yourself that it was all in your head – the whispers and the looks and the sighs. So you call. And they all come over to visit – only the ladies, of course. And they all act like they’re competing to help you. Their faces are understanding and patient and kind. So you begin to feel comfortable. Comfortable enough to talk about the dry bone in your throat. About the lack of appetite. About the apathy. About the anomie. About the zombie days and the comatose nights. But their faces don’t fool you. They savor every word like it’s caviar on white bread, listening closely to the parts of your “confession” that confirm to them you really are a curse. You can smell the condescension for your misfortune oozing like unwanted sweat out of their pores. You can see the gratitude for the normalcy of their lives shining like a wet lust in their eyes. And it hits you like a plane falling out of the sky hits the ground.

In your throat, that dry bone begins to moisten. And you dare a swallow – maybe this time it will cooperate and slide down, disappearing for good. But the bone digs deeper into your throat, and you choke on the tears in your chest and behind your eyes. You just want to curl up in a fetal position on that ungenerously sized loveseat you and Graham had once shared. You want to curl up and become comatose all over again, just like you’d been those first couple of weeks after Graham’s head had imploded. And they start to get uncomfortable because they see it in your eyes… that you’re on to them… that you get it.

And now, when they see you somewhere, they start to glide against the walls, trying to get as far away from where you’re sitting, or standing, or might possibly move – as far away from you – as they possibly can.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


"The Eclipse"
by Paul Albert Besnard

under a quiet night
inside a silent city
on a deserted street
amongst sauntering shadows
of trees with crooked trunks
and houses with locked doors
but open windows
to let in the stars
we sit and watch the sky
and right before our eyes
the moon becomes a woman
she bares a breast
over the edge of a rooftop
and below
the earth is indigo
a lake of shimmering ghosts
with a single leaf
floating over the surface
tenderly so tenderly
your hands pour love down my back
a love that trickles
like wine into a glass
your hands that are
the sacred guardians
of a blurred dream
for a moment
in focus
my lips begin to promise love
but softly
you blindfold my mouth
with your hands
and whisper to me shhh
and the moon
breathes deeply
sighs gently
smiles quietly
turns gracefully on her side
and bares her other breast

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Truth

If you haven’t read The Instructions please go back and read them first.
And then come back and read The Truth.

This is what happened.
I was walking down the hall.
I was walking and I heard the kids chant.
I heard their innocent voices rise.
I heard their beautiful voices cry.
I heard them sing, Don’t write outside the box.
And I heard her ugly voice.
Her voice that stopped them dead.
Her voice that killed like a scythe cutting through a field of sunflowers.
Her voice that perturbed like a siren in a quiet night.
That’s right.
Don’t write outside the box, she screeched.
If you write outside the box…
Bla bla bla…
And the one next door to her said the same.
And his voice stopped me inside my head.
His voice stopped me inside my step.
I was walking down the hall and my legs stopped moving.
And I turned around and walked a few steps back.
And I looked through the little glass window on his classroom door.
I looked and saw faces transfixed.
Faces aged fourteen and fifteen and sixteen.
So young and yet so tired.
Faces exhausted by repetition.
Faces transfixed by fear.
Faces lit by anguish.
You can’t fail, he said.
And they looked at him like he was walking on water.
And they nodded their heads.
And I thought to myself, What are they, idiots, that we have to talk to them like this?
And I walked to my classroom.
And I sat in my chair.
And I was angry.
And I was sad.
And I clutched myself and said to myself, What am I doing here?
Why do I stay?
I can walk away from this and do anything else.
Anything at all.
And the kids walked out of their classes.
And their voices interrupted my thoughts.
And I stood outside my door and watched them.
And they looked at each other anxiously.
And their eyes said, We can’t fail.
And they came into my class.
And we sat together and read “Harrison Bergeron.”
And the kids asked me, Miss, what does it mean?
And I said, You tell me.
And they told me.
And the music of their voices filled my heart.
But the irony of it strained my chest.
And my eyes wanted to cry.
But The Instructions say, Don’t cry in front of the students.
So I held back my tears. I stayed inside my box.
And when we had finished exchanging ideas, the kids said,
We’re real nervous about the big test tomorrow, Miss.
And I wanted to tell them that it was okay to fail. People fail, sometimes. It’s okay. It happens, I wanted to say.
But if I’d told them that and they’d failed I would have let them down.
The Instructions don't allow them to fail.
So I would have been lying.
So I stayed inside my box.
And instead, I told them, Real heroes fall.
And the kids asked me, Miss, what does it mean?
And I said,
You tell me.
And they told me.
And the music of their voices filled my heart.
And one boy said, Miss, I still don’t get it.
And I said, You will get it in your own good time.
And they started to leave.
And as they walked out the door, we gave each other high fives.
And as they walked down the hall I heard them say, We still gotta pass that test tomorrow.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Instructions

This is the big day, they said. This is it.
This is the day where you get to show what you know.
This is the day where you get to prove yourself.
You’ve been practicing so long.
And now it’s time to show your skills.
And you’ve got them. You’ve got the skills.
We’ve drilled you well and we know you have the skills.
Now it’s time to show what you know.
In a minute we’ll be passing out the papers.
But first, there are a few instructions we want to go over with you.
Don’t forget to write your name on the cover page.
If you don’t write your name, we won’t know whose paper it is.
Simple. Right?
Put your name on the cover page in capital letters. In pencil.
You must use pencil. Do you understand?
We feel that you are prepared.
You have been preparing all along.
We have been preparing you.
Though you might not realize it, you are prepared.
But the most important thing to remember is the box.
When you are filling in your answers, write inside the box.
Don’t write outside the box.
You must only write inside the box.
When we practiced, sometimes we allowed you to write outside the box.
But that’s because we were just practicing.
Now you know all the right answers.
Now you know exactly what you need to write.
Don’t make up your own stuff to write.
Just write what we told you to write.
If you make up your own stuff, you will need more space.
More space means going outside the box.
If you make up your own stuff, you will have the wrong answer.
Wrong answers mean failure.
And this is the real thing.
You can’t fail.
So you can’t write outside the box.
We can’t stress this enough.
You can’t write outside the box.
If you write outside the box the scanner won’t read what you wrote.
The scanner is programmed to read only what is inside the box.
So make sure you stay inside it.
If you go outside the box, you will fail.
We can’t stress this enough.
The scanner won’t read what you wrote.
Don’t go outside the box.
Do you understand?
This is the big day. This is it.
This is the day where you get to show what you know.
This is the day where you get to prove yourself.
You need to follow the instructions.
Write your name on the cover page in capital letters in pencil.
Don’t write outside the box.
If you write outside the box the scanner won’t read what you wrote.
If you write outside the box you will fail.
Do you understand?
You need to follow the instructions.
Name on cover page in caps and pencil.
Don’t write outside the box.
Write outside, and the scanner won’t read it.
Write outside, you fail.
Get it?
Name on cover. Caps. Pencil.
Don’t write outside the box.
Write outside, scanner won’t read it.
Write outside, fail.
Don’t write outside the box.
Don’t write outside the box.
Get it?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rite of Spring

I will light the room with carmine candles
And I will sprinkle the floor with kali blossoms
And I will clothe myself in the coloring of love
And I will dip my fingers
         One by one
         In wildflower honey
And I will slip apart your lips
         With honeyed fingertips
And I will trace the shell curve of your ear
         With the canal curve of my tongue
And I will tread the tender path
Of your melting flesh
With my mouth
And I will play sweet music on your body and face
And I will brush and swish like breath on skin
And I will lick our sweat from the pool in your navel
And I will twine red roses into a garland
And I will wrap this around our precious embrace
And Cupid and Psyche will bless our sleep
And sadness will melt away like indigo in water
And tomorrow will glow cornflower like spring.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

night and shadow

Fiberglass and resin sculpture
"He is the Night" by Gwen Creighton Lux

there is a place
night does not fall
but breaks
like day
but splinters

inside me

because i am river
faceless but flowing
because i am sky
invisible but living

because i am mote
in the eyes of
secret stars
because i am scream
in the throats of
frozen lies


i am

i am legend
in the hearts of
broken heroes
i am tale
in the mouths of
sacred stones

up the stairs
left down the corridor
there is a place
a room
i wait for you
white robes
on crimson flesh
i wait for you
jagged metal
in tender wound

i wait
i watch
through inverted windows
of angled eyes

i wait
i know
the night will not fall
nor will the damned 
meet the crucified
at the crossroads
of hell and purgatory

i wait
i know
you will not come

i have given breath
to your shadow
and in so doing
i have lost mine