Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gods: Those in the kitchen (and, yes, those at the Shell station)

The none too subtle point of my earlier post today was that adventure needn't carry us far at all, though they certainly may, and have, in my life as well. But, boundaries mark and crisscross us daily, inviting/invoking the possibilities for Grace at all turns.

The three of us have begun a new adventure in a home we recently purchased - our first as a family, my fourth as a wanderer. It is a 42-year-old house, and we are its second owners. It feels like a gift to us in so many ways, a beautiful home tucked beneath beautiful trees in front and back, and beds lovingly gardened by the 93-year-old woman who sold it to us, to begin her new journey with family in North Carolina.

I mowed the yard for the first time this afternoon, under a Texas-blue sky, with a lovely fall breeze. Carved a couple of pumpkins for Walden and his visiting amigo, and then puttered outside. I do not putter, and of late in drought-ridden Texas, I do not "outside." But outside I did today, and puttered, and were a truce possible with the rainy day mosquitoes, I would be hammocking my way through these lazy afternoons.

But, none of these things, and none of the predictable hoopla that attends the buying of and moving into a house truly felt like this house had moved inside my skin. That came this evening with a fifteen-second pirouette from one side of the kitchen to the other to fetch a water glass from the cabinet behind me. The move was so fluid and felt like something I had been doing for years in this kitchen and would continue to do for many years to come. Something so simple, filled with history flooding.

I find that Grace falls on me like this quite often. Unmistakable steppings out of and steppings through that are "nothing more" than the simplest of living prayers. As I've said before, Yemaya was always wont to visit me when I least expected it, most often while staring off into a big blue Austin sky, while pumping gas at the Shell station at the corner of South Congress and Riverside Drive, blessing me with life out of time, just as today's kitchen goddess did the same in her sock feet on the tile of this casita in Tres Leches.


Sunday Scribblings #187: Adventure

i. Paradise Assembling

Travel one tongue and answer the lines of Venus in her showered misery. Bring time to the feast and question laughing. We dance the ceaseless face of will to be, will to face. I enter gladly: I entered gladly. And so shall, eternally. Orpheus / Mab, we know no secrets, bodies entwined, a cut from the pass of sonnets, of songs, of robes opaled by morning. This is the down we faced, sun rising east and west, sea assembling. Paradise is an orange tree, mock orange, white petals jubilantly silent in forest glee. They tremble: we tremble. Revel. The sands have sailed, winds in our hair, trembling, reveling. Trembling.

Cross the ravine. Take down your wisdom, shake out your darkened hair. Stand as rain embraces you, runs down you, marks the lines of fruit, embracing. Hunger has never hungered as this. Hunger has traveled for none other than this—hungered blind, hungered wild, hungered home. Hunger kneels before you, cups you, lingers. Language knows no other tongues as this.

Mother tongue? Bah! Lover tongue. Words drown in the torrent.

Taste the sea, angelic evolution of mountains, craters of the still moon. We are past the houses of the avalanche: snow is yet falling, yet ablaze. Venus again, a crown of purple. Venus again, a crown of white. Venus unmoored, her crown at sea, her crown stunned by horses, black bay, midnight.

Black bay. / Midnight: love’s curve is endless, a measured spoon, measuring the lateness of night. Answer: are you here? Answer: will you dream the body? Answer: can you see the lines of fate? There are mussels in the backs of you, gentle treasures in the night.

Beyond the ravine, a cavern. Beyond the cavern, a lake. I walked there, when time was not time, the belt was green, and the seraphic waters sang with all their might. A moment when the mighty gods held breath, took odds, played the fool, wiped sleeve across the windows of their rest.

I walked there. We traveled back.

ii. one word rio frio: shallow

in the great deeps
you'll find
little beyond
what you can find
right here
in the sun on your
son's lovely back
the rise of your wife's
anthem, as she gathers
wisdom to her breast, cherishing the rest

iii. [ahora el azul se extiende]

orange grove
wonder’s habitation
coin of lost times algebraic
tis season to be merry
in the neighborhood of last dreams
last waves last insinuations
como ondulaciones azul
as if ocean was heart
aorta of green song
ocean i can’t forget
ring the reverent
artesian ozonated nature’s way appling
dappling the trembled day.


In crimson voice she called me
Noetic blessing
After the ships had sailed
Scented grace of lost breath,
Mary’s breath in a whisper
Of lost time:
Tie your banners
Here: your restless
Evening hastens:
Recklessness abates, the heart
Surges—waves pounding—
Diamond shower—
Aching crevice—
Yellowwood, this yare emprising.

v. [the rampant night]

lean james brown behind the shell counter
sleeveless king corona smiles his bald head
into my arctic worry, singeing me back to weepy
wonder, the baragrill plague, sodden unshaved
truth upon his lips:
you cannot if you do not
stills the naughty Edwin in my heart as
i, too, unfold my acolyte dollars into the wintry till.

christmas most thrifty,
g. greets me, steers me, releases me
to broadway’s frozen tumble:
i break my religion, run, run, run
for all i am worth:
via bureaucrat waves me off,
half a block later papa noels me

quadberry in his rocker
spits between his feet
many times i gotta tell you boy
them lights ain’t out they’s in
quad, you frozen tundra
loopy for mary, loopy for joni,
loopy for the sloppy dog love of crowned

the money tree was burning, blazing &
just how many times can you say they
shimmered & they shimmered & they shimmered,
at broadway and lime, it was i, then they, then they, then
i, tilting, jousting, upended by the riot
of molten heat burning ice into
the plenty of chain reaction.

on holy 14, mary feeds her babies bologna straight
out of the package & i am on the verge of drowning
again, but her jesus baby for all his incessant irritation
is singing, babybird food in his mouth,
butterfly meat, jubilant squalor.

brother sam draws me in
promises and delivers nothing
quad sez
git on home boy
the opera’s there
your sweet combustible son
your wifely wife most faire

fading george back from his roam, tell
us, where the flushing angels
sleigh bells down the only street
the missions burned, the cathedrals annexed,
chapels rain the reliquary

you who would say
you who would pray
you who would wish

be mary, angel man
be bright.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

one word shaolin: scissors

gofer, gofer the three
on one, cut out your


hearts afire,

twisty wishies

all dolled up

for Fall Fest

and Yankee Delight

& casual dress

day in

a foreign land. Hugh

signs up &

next thing

you know, he's been

speared - gouged, really -

gouged out

to get right

to the point,

while all the fall

foliage rains

down on heads &

goofy dog patterns

in the Cecil B

follies. I seem

to have forgotten

the way past

visionary to

just plain

specs, cooling thunder,

passive tense,

& calling collect.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sunday Scribblings #186: Shame

[Some of you already have this, but Mac's descent is a good dose of shame. Another excerpt from my novel Scarred Angels.]

Agnes and I spent the remaining nights before Christmas driving around town in search of neighborhoods filled with Christmas lights. With a large thermos in the front seat between us, Agnes would navigate slowly down the glittering streets while I kept our mugs filled with hot chocolate and, for Agnes, the obligatory half dozen miniature marshmallows. We'd circle the neighborhoods several times with the windows down, bundled up in gloves and coats, arguing over which houses should win our prizes. Agnes favored orderly, monochromed themes, nothing flashy, while I was invariably falling for sweeping cascades of gaudy Las Vegas lights, complete with plastic holy families sprawled out on the lawn. One house on our side of town had a live Nativity scene in their front yard, with rotating Marys, Josephs, and night visitors milling around a handcrafted wooden manger. Mustached with sticky melted marshmallow, Agnes would punch me every time I fell for another cheesy display.

We saved Windcrest for Christmas Eve, a huge subdivision off Walzem Road where owners and tenants must have had to sign contracts to decorate before moving into the neighborhood. We sat in traffic for an hour waiting to enter the subdivision where every house was blazing with electricity. Our arguments this time were with the homeowners' association that had already handed out what we both considered dubious awards.

We got back to my apartment about 11 o'clock and sat for awhile on the couch together, watching Daltry's face light up in her flashing circle of lights. I think we both felt her spirit near. Just before midnight, Agnes kissed me on the cheek and got up to leave.

"Remember, Mac, no earlier than six-thirty, but no later than eight. Before six-thirty and you can freeze on my steps. After eight, and I open my presents and yours without you." We were gathering in the morning for gifts and breakfast. For two weeks Agnes had been drilling me on when to be there.

"I'll be there at seven," I said, yawning. "If you'll get out of here and let me get some sleep."

I listened to her clomp down the steps and then out the front door of my building. I walked to the picture window and looked through one of Daltry's wings as Agnes climbed into her car, honked, and drove off. When her tail lights turned onto Astoria, I pulled the plug on Daltry's lights and went to bed.

About an hour later, I woke to the sound of knocking at my door, decidedly insistent knocking. What the hell, I thought, trying to waken to the urgency of the person in my stairwell. "Just a minute!" I yelled. The knocking stopped. I pulled on a pair of pants with the t-shirt I slept in and walked to the door.

"Who is it?" I said, behind the closed door.

"Me." The voice was muffled, low, struggling through tears, not a way I had ever heard it before, but I knew. It was Charlotte.

Before any other part of me could walk away, I opened the door. She stood in the doorway shaking, no coat, just a dress, ripped at the sleeves and neck. Her hair was matted, tears ran through her makeup, a bruise was forming under her left eye. I pulled her to me, closed the door, and held her in the dark of the living room.

"Who did this to you?" I said.

"Mac, please. Don't ask that. Just hold me."

"Bastrop. The son of a bitch." I was seized with a rage to destroy him.

"Mac. He was drinking heavily. He gets this way. Please, let it go. Just stay with me."

We sat on the couch and I held her to me, stroking her wet hair. I felt her breath settle, as her shaking stopped. My own body was stiff with a confusion of feelings, rage at Bastrop, suspicion of Charlotte, and my desire for her as well. I sat in the dark and stared at the figure of my guardian angel in the window, knowing what she would say: "Shake 'em loose, little man." I couldn't.

Charlotte roused herself from sleep about an hour later. She reached up and kissed me. "Mac? Have you got a robe I can borrow? I want to wash up and get out of these clothes. Walking to my bedroom I kept hearing the sound of Daltry's voice echoing in my brain. As I walked back to Charlotte with the robe, Daltry's voice began to fade. Charlotte had pulled the curtains over the picture window. "That angel's kind of spooky in the dark, Mac." She took the robe and walked to the bathroom. Closed the door, but did not lock it. Force of habit?

She ran the shower and I sat aching again in the darkened room. The water stopped, the shower curtain pulled back, and I heard the rustle of a towel as she dried herself. When I finally opened the bathroom door she stood naked in the steam, facing me. She unbuckled my pants and pulled them down. I lifted her gently and pushed inside her. Her legs encircled me as I plunged deeper and then cried out for her. I felt her shudder beside me as I whispered her name into the small dimly lit tiled room.

We moved from the bathroom to my bed where our lovemaking was slower and gentler, erasing all the conflicting emotions of seeing Charlotte in the first place. By the time she was beneath me in my bed, I was fully in her grasp, capable of going anywhere with her. The bruises on her face and arms were proof enough to me that she was no accomplice to Bastrop's villainy, but yet another of his victims.

We lay for two hours in the dark and I held her as she drifted in and out of sleep. Her body began to warm, and her breathing eased. About four o'clock in the morning, she rolled over and faced me, running the back of her hand lightly down the side of my face.

"Mac," she said, "I want you to do something for me."

I didn't hesitate. "Anything," I said.

"Come with me to my place."

"Let's go."

We left in her car and crossed town easily. Traffic was minimal, the whole city seemingly asleep in anticipation of a holiday that I had completely lost sight of. I was lost again in Charlotte. She drove in silence, wrapped in my jacket for warmth and to cover the damage to her own clothes.

Once in her apartment, she peeled off her clothes in the living room, while I did the same. Amidst the Christmas decor I noticed flower arrangements with Bastrop's usual flair, but relished the thought that he had probably seen the last of Charlotte's apartment. Charlotte walked up to me, kissed me hard on the mouth, and then took me down the hallway to her room. At her door I turned to go inside, but she continued walking down the hall to a door she unlocked with a key she took from under a vase of flowers on a table at the end of the hallway. I walked into a room that looked like a well- appointed photographer's studio. In addition to cameras and lighting equipment, the large room was filled with furniture, racks of clothes and costumes, backdrops, and several trunks of props. Feeling very much out of my element, I watched in amazement as Charlotte coolly trained a movie camera on a daybed in the center of the room.

With her eye behind the camera, Charlotte spoke in the indifferent manner of a technician. "Mac, get over on the bed. Let me see if I've got this shot set up right."

I hesitated, suddenly feeling like I'd walked into another of Bastrop's traps, with Charlotte as his infallible bait.

"What's this for, Charlotte?" I said. "What is all this stuff in here?"

She let her eyes take in the room and then looked straight at me. "My life," she said.

"So what am I doing here?"

Before answering, she walked over, pulled me to the daybed, pushed me down on my back, and stroked my thickening penis. Then she said, "I want you in it."

She walked back to the camera. I heard it begin to whir, and then a moment later she was astride me.

"Forget the camera," she said as she leaned down and whispered in my ear. The technician was gone, replaced again by the woman who'd come to haunt my life and dreams. In time, I did forget the camera, as its neutral eye recorded my ability to lose sight of all that was important to me.

When I woke hours later I felt drained of whatever decency I had left. Unlike the first night I had spent at Charlotte's apartment, it was I, not she, who was distant. Not that she entirely welcomed my presence, but given my absent manner, she feigned her own brand of being solicitous.

"Coffee?" she said. She sat robed on the bed beside me. I vaguely remembered moving to her bedroom just before dawn. Clouds had moved swiftly outside her window.

I sat up in her bed, my back against the headboard. Looking about her room, my eyes lit upon a pair of suitcases that stood in front of her closet door. She took my gaze for a curiosity I did not feel.

"Rome," she said. "I leave for Rome tomorrow afternoon." I didn't have to ask with whom.

"I think I better be going," I said, surprised at the calm in my voice.

She drove me back to my apartment, both of us silent. I rode with my window down, breathing in the warm air of yet another Texas Christmas that failed to deliver the bright chill of winter. It was a failure I felt oddly responsible for as we drove through neighborhoods filled with children playing in shirtsleeves and shorts.

In front of my building, I turned and looked Charlotte square in the face. She didn't say anything, but in her green eyes I saw what for her amounted to an apology. I reached over and lightly touched the bruises on her face. I could feel her skin relax and give in to the touch of my hand.

"Poor Charlotte," I said, laughing bitterly. I got out of the car and looked back down at her puzzled face. "You just don't get it," I said, and walked off.

She really didn't get it. I may have forgotten the camera, but she needn't have worried. I also liked it.

The presents were stacked neatly at the foot of my door. Mine to Agnes, anyway. Not one to be confused by sentiment anymore, she'd kept the ones she bought for me. I opened my door and stepped over the packages. They stayed on the landing for three more weeks, after which the woman who lived in the other upstairs apartment must have figured they were fair game. I can't imagine she liked the books I'd gotten Agnes, but I think I caught a glimpse of the earrings one evening as we passed in the stairwell. I suppose she was more discreet with the scarf and sweater, or maybe they just didn't suit her.

I bought my first bottle, a bottle of Scotch, on New Year's Eve. Not to drink it yet; just to be ready. I was curious to see what would finally drive me to crack the seal. I might as well have decorated it for all the grim cheer it gave me as it sat for weeks on my coffee table, taking my measure.

I knew to whom that film was headed. But, like Charlotte, I really didn't get it either.

I did learn, however, through the month of January, that it's not the drink that will kill you. You're already dead by the time the glass is poured. What goes in your throat is just an attempt to fill the void, maybe bring you back to life. When that first shot hit my stomach (it wasn't January, and it wasn't the bottle on my table), it was the first time in weeks I didn't feel like a ghost.

Upon my return to school after the holidays, I slid into an anonymity which suited my spectral sense of self. I had sense enough to avoid Agnes altogether. With her, in a manner befitting my own private equations, went my Tuesday meetings with Marvin. Knowing his views of Agnes' importance in my life, I figured I'd save him the trouble of yet another lecture.

Charlotte got back from Rome about a week after we returned to school. By the time I saw her car parked again in front of the school, my interest in her had completely ebbed. What quickened my pulse upon seeing her car was knowing, finally, that Bastrop was back.

I spent hours, both at work and back at my apartment, imagining his next move. Half a dozen times a day I'd check my storage closet for another of his cream-colored envelopes. In the late afternoons, while cleaning the empty school, I'd listen for the soft pad of his footsteps in the hall. On more than one occasion, I mistook an acrid smell in a classroom for his cigar.

Through this time, the only person with whom I had any recurring contact was Gloria Martinez. If anyone else could have replaced me in the kitchen, I would have avoided her completely. Her gaze was horribly reminiscent of my abandoned sponsor. In late January, I noticed she'd added another candle to her collection in the kitchen. She caught me staring at it one afternoon after lunch.

"San Judeo," she said, gruffly. "Tu lo conosces?"

St. Jude. Patron saint of hopeless cases. Yeah, I knew of him. I knew who she was lighting him for, too.

By mid-February my patience ran out. I'd waited seven weeks for the priestly axe to fall, a prisoner in the dungeon-like halls of the school. Both Bastrop and Charlotte had disappeared. Bastrop entirely and Charlotte almost so, save for an occasional visit to her office. For the most part, her door was locked to her lost children, many of whom I'd see wandering singly in the halls or on the edges of play in the field behind the school. I wondered how a woman with her touch could abandon them so completely. As for Bastrop, I wondered how he could delay the pleasure of finishing me off.

It was Valentine's Day when I finally walked down the street to the rectory. I had hoped to interfere with any plans he had with Charlotte, but to my surprise I found him in his study, dressed casually and, to all appearances, in for the night. He acknowledged my presence in the door with a quick dismissive glance and returned to the book he was reading. I realized then how I'd come to rely upon his unctuous manner as a prop for my own disdain of him. His silence completely baffled me. I felt myself close, very close, to my first drink in years.

"You've seen it, then," I said into the room's stillness.

He spared me the oblique reply. "Oh, yes, I've seen it, Mac. But, then, I've seen many of Charlotte's films. Yours was, well, rather pedestrian, don't you think?"

I'd walked into another of his knockout punches, my knees buckling, though I still had a bit left in me before the fall. "I wouldn't know," I said. "I haven't had the pleasure."

"Oh, I'm sure that can be arranged." His manner was still bored, betraying no delight in my evident discomfort. Was my demise that uninteresting?

"You said many."

He looked at me with mild irritation. "Mac, let's not dissemble here. You and I both know Charlotte is not one to approach something out of idle amateur curiosity. So, please spare me your feigned surprise."

"So how many films of you, then?" I was shocked to find that, behind my question, was a certainty that this was a line even Bastrop would never cross. To my relief, his answer was quick.

"None, I assure you, but not for reasons you might think." At this, he walked to his desk, opened a drawer and handed me a manila envelope.

I pulled out half a dozen 8x10 black and white close-ups of a man whose face was buried behind Charlotte's head as he lay naked atop her. I didn't need to see the man's face to know it was Bastrop. The width and the shape of his diminutive back was unmistakable. It took me a few minutes, though, to see what he really wanted me to see, something no amount of physical intimacy with Charlotte could have shown me. It took the relative objectivity of a profile shot for me to see something horrifying in the line of her face.

It was my recognition of that horror that finally brought a smile to his lips as he said, "You see, Mac, I detest home movies."

I'm not sure if he handed me the first glass of sherry, or if I poured it myself.

I cracked the seal of my own bottle later that evening, wasting it on myself. After my years of sobriety, I'd forgotten that a drunk doesn't drink for taste, so the point of a good Scotch was entirely lost on me. When I got down to the business of drinking in earnest, I came to my senses and switched to my usual rotgut gin. It filled the void quite nicely and was a hell of a lot cheaper.

All through the ensuing weeks, I figured I was headed for my final showdown with Bastrop, but that just showed another thing I'd forgotten. The priest much preferred to have someone else do his dirty work. How delightful it must have been for him to have Agnes as his accomplice in the minor venture of my demise.

She finally caught up with me in late March. I'd thought the school was empty and was dozing off in a classroom on the second floor. In those days, I'd come to prefer working in the late afternoons and evening. It gave me the freedom to clean and drink at my own pace. On plenty of occasions, I'd stayed until midnight before locking up and going home. A work schedule like that invariably required one or two naps, so by the time Agnes found me, they were a habit I'd come to see as just part of the routine. Besides, when you're at the bottom of a fuzzy well of drink, you could give a damn what sleeping on the job looks like to your boss, or even to the best friend you'd ever had.

I don't know how long she'd been standing in the door before I came to. I'm sure she didn't touch me to wake me. I think I just sensed her presence in whatever dream I was having at the time and then slipped from one state to the other, an easy crossover when a fifth of gin is your crossing guard. If indeed a drunk ever really crosses over.

She kept it simple. "I guess we're pretty much near the end," she said, and walked off. Her tone was matter-of-fact, just what I'd expect from the woman who'd delivered her prediction to me on that first day in the school office. Strange, even down in my booze, I missed the sound of my name on her voice, though I was grateful she'd not reverted to the formality of Mr. Bollinger. Not seeing her for three months kept me safely in the illusion that it didn't matter, but one terse sentence from her left me with a pain in my heart and not enough gin for the rest of my shift.

In the end, I went ahead and did the dirty work for Bastrop and Agnes both. In April I just stopped going to work altogether. My last check, signed with unmistakable flourish by Bastrop himself, came in the mail a week after my disappearance. Attached was a brief note, in Agnes' handwriting, requesting that I pick up anything I might have left during regular school hours. I could return my keys then or simply drop them in the mail. Again, no mention of my name, an omission I took to be the only evidence of what I had meant to Agnes Fisher.

I didn't return my keys, at least not right away. Instead, I returned to one of those things I do best: prowling. For a week or so, I crawled out of bed about nine o'clock and walked through the sticky warm night air over to the school. Whatever recovering drunk Agnes had hired to replace me was a lot more efficient than I ever was, so I had the halls and classrooms to myself. I think I was looking for what I might have left behind, though I knew it was nothing tangible. It wasn't in Charlotte's office, the first place I checked. It wasn't in the kitchen either, though I got spooked by Gloria's candles casting flickering shadows around the tiled and stainless steel room. I had a strong feeling that what I'd left was behind Agnes' door, but that was the one place I'd never had a key for.

The last night of my prowling I thought I saw a ghost. Daltry's ghost, in fact. I came down the stairwell to the first floor of the Dupont Street wing and saw a tall black figure standing with its back to me.

"Daltry?" I whispered, my heart beating as fast as the gin would let it.

The figure turned and a man, probably in his early sixties, faced me. He was about Daltry's height, and his black hair was cut short like Daltry's just before her death. The gaze he fixed me with was like the ones Daltry had turned on me in her kitchen. I could see one of the reasons Agnes had hired him to replace me.

"Working late?" I said, trying to act casual.

"Do I know you?" said the man. I wondered, had it disappointed Agnes that this was clearly a man who had never known drink? It was a feeling, a hunch, that Marvin would never have trusted, but I knew.

"Lipscomb," I said, faltering. "My classroom's on the second floor. I forgot something."

"I know Lipscomb. He's in the B-Wing." He continued to look at me calmly, forcefully. "But, I believe I know you, too," he said, finally. He reached out with his hand open. "I'll take those keys now, Mr. Bollinger."

I didn't argue. Mainly because, all evidence to the contrary, I still thought I was talking to Daltry's ghost, and she was one person I never could argue with. I set the keys in his large hand, stole another glance into his dark eyes, and walked off.

"None of my business," he said to my back, "but you sure broke that poor girl's heart."

I didn't argue with that either.


one word cheaply conversant: shoes

[ambient calcium]

the pitter patter
ovaltine mummies on
divergent cataclysms
verdant reminiscence
the before you were
when you were
curdles and whey
whey way back
in the confines
of vigorous time,
vigorous celebration
Slartibartfast in his
sugary suit. Who would
leave such essence
by the doorstep, who
would jiggle
for that many afoot? Cancel
the subscription, you say,
with your weaselly smile
tinderbox of ovoid
caroling in the nudest
of chewy cobblers.
We feign to wait, we
weight that which
passes the tests
of brown,
of green, of
nascent blue. I'll sing
for my supper, now
how about you?


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Scribblings #185: Junk

[Junkyard dog boogaloo]

Junkyard dog boogaloo
flashy ann cashion
aggrandizing the goal posts
midrash of the afflicted
evidentiary assistance
the digital proof of existence
hardly played
deeply weighed
grooves worn out in
careening through the mercado
pralines babies lined up
for sale
tito, celia, colon, larry &
Fania intercessories
candles in confusion
fusion confusion
(confucian confusion!)
after the nines are set
blues magoos folly azul
casting south
wishing for grace
wishing on a star
wishing you never
had to face the limitations
of the keys
to your inferno
trigger finger apparitions
perpetual help on the fly
prompt succor by and by
you & I the nearing current -
blissful bolero -
eye to eye.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

more sublimity...


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

nuff said.

The divine Celia Cruz...


vamos a bailar

I ran across these vatos on PBS Monday night, a series on Latin Music. Prepare to have your asses kicked. Wander YouTube and search for the Fania All Stars, get their seminal 1974 concert, documented on "Our Latin Thing." It's definitely Latin, and it's definitely the THING.


Sunday, October 11, 2009


From Anno, via others, comes this one, fun but simple:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two teaser sentences from that page.
4. No spoilers, por favor.
5. Share title and author, other vital stats as needed.

From Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf (I'm going with actual "sentences" in the translation, not just lines):

Only the roof remained unscathed

by the time the guilt-fouled fiend turned tail

in despair of his life. But death is not easily

escaped from by anyone:

all of us with souls, earth-dwellers

and children of men, must make our way

to a destiny already ordained

where the body, after the banqueting,

sleeps on its deathbed.


Friday, October 09, 2009


My seniors are reading Beowulf, and recently wrote an awesome round of poems of desolation in response. After I read them aloud in class, M asked, "Where's yours?"

Here it is...

[Carrion Doom]

Darkness reigned
Reigned down through the peril in our hearts, negating life, negating
The smallest flames, the greenest shoots, up through the
Blistering snow, grey wash of death
Mirrored in the eyes of all who
Prayed in the midst of our desolation
We cried beyond tears, we cried a desert’s worth of
Desecration, we envisioned ourselves
The carrion of a darkness
The length of the infinity
Between two numbers
That long stretch
Beyond gloom, beyond despair, beyond
The dimness that ruled our stolen hearts.
Words echoed off the walls of our minds, ghosts
In the wind, ghosts borne of terror and the
Smallness of rodent courage.
The quest for birth was feeble,
Mincemeat churning the feeble tissues
The aching bone-lappings
The feeblest of whispers
Careening through the arteries
Rivers of fear, capillaries of doom
Triggered by the last possible
Dream lost in the narrows
Prayers of dissipation, prayers
That rifle memory, dead memory
A string of lost consciousness
Green mountains, green fields
Before the grey warriors shattered
The dream-sanctuaries of orchid bloom.
The gods disdained us, the chasms
Divided weak from weak—there
Was no strength in us.
One child
Distaffed torment
Chaos in the tendrils of her hair—
Violet abyss, empurpled souls—
I cannot sing past the night’s shadows
Caustic disarray, caustic sentiment,
A scathing dirge to the lost,
The lambent violence of the failing light.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Sunday Scribbling #184: Bump in the Night

(An excerpt from my novel Galilee...)

There was no point in pursuing it with Amelia, so he didn’t. He watched the water swerve and roil through the cypress knees on the other side of creek. Up on the rise, three raccoons sauntered out of the woods and stood watching, then ambled off.

“Bandits,” he said.

“Not really,” said Tía. She looked at him in his fuddled state. He felt the heat of her gaze.

“What?” he said.

She smiled. “You really don’t remember, do you?”

“Remember what?”

“Eight years old, you practically lived down here at this creek. In, out, this side, that side, I think back now how trusting we were of you down here by yourself and I am horrified, but you were adamant that we were not to interfere with your independence,—”

“Not much changed there—”

“You had such a confidence, such a knowing about you. I looked down from the window one day and you’re down here feeding one of these ‘bandits,’ as you say, out of your hand. And not a baby, at that. Next day, there’s a family of three down there with you, seated all quiet and dignified as if you were all at some posh tea party—you were reading to them. For six months, you painted your face with black stripes and insisted on being called Wodjidjé.”


“Wodjidjé. You found the name in one of the books you read to the raccoons. Thanks to both your parents, you were always reading the strangest things. Wodjidjé came from the Winnebago or Hotcâgara people—he was the Comet-Meteor spirit, who wore the skin of a raccoon. His long tail—the comet’s tail, the meteor’s tail—further symbolized raccoon spirit. You remember none of this?”


“That was six months of black paint on your face, and a very unusual name for an eight year old boy raised out here in the sticks. You were quite insistent.”

“Believe me, Tía, it’s not the first thing I’ve lost.”

“Still, it’s strange that it’s so vivid to me.”

“What happened after the six months? I put away foolish things and turn to the usual nonsense?”

The sound of water filled the silence.


You’re asking the wrong person, said the boy inside Peter’s head. Of course, he doesn’t remember anything, he never does. Yes, he’s come a long way with Miss Stella and the baby, but he still clamps down hard on me. No way I can get out and play and have run of the place. Too scary, too scary, though all he would say is that it’s time to put all of that—all of me, he means—behind him.

Of course, I remember the raccoons. That first day down here at the creek when the first one showed up. Didn’t hear a sound, and then all of a sudden, I just felt this presence beside me, breathing, full, still. So close, so real, at first I thought it had to be a dog or a cat, even though I knew there were no cats around and the dogs were all much bigger and a different color. It just sat there looking at me, sat a good while, not the least bit bothered by me or my curiosity. I wished I had something to hand to it that day, I was so convinced it would accept whatever I offered.

And, what was so strange was that I had just been reading a book Mama had given me about the Hotcâgara—Winnebagos, as many people knew them—and a bunch of their stories about Raccoon and Wodjidjé, the Meteor Spirit, who was very connected to Raccoon, with his long hairy tail. I had always had the feeling that the world was a very magical place, but the arrival of the raccoon was when I knew for sure—it could be no accident that Raccoon appeared to me at that time.

Two days later, he returned with his family. That was the day Tía saw me down here with them. I know her first instinct was to worry, but thankfully, she stopped herself long enough to look and see that all was safe. From then on, we met out here daily, most times just starting here, and then walking off into the woods for our adventures. I began to feel like I was seeing the world through their eyes. Tricksters they were, just like the Hotcâgara said they were, but no more than any playful child might be—I felt like we were simply playing with our imaginations together, hiding things from one another, going down paths guaranteed to lose us, but always with smiles on our faces, playfulness in our hearts.

“Tía,” Peter said again, touching her hand gently. “It’s okay. I remember what happened to the raccoons. You don’t have to tell me.”

The boy inside him breathed deep relief, took Peter’s heart in his hands and warmed it with his fingers. Yes. Tell it for all of us. I knew eventually you would come around

“It was horrible,” said Amelia. “It still is—after all these years, it still is.”

Please, for me, tell it, so I don’t have to carry it around anymore, so none of us do

“I don’t remember who, though,” said Peter. “I remember that they went missing, and that they never went missing. First, they were always creekside, and then later they started coming right on up to the house to find me, practically asking for me at the back door. Then those few days gone, and then—”

“Slaughtered,” said Amelia.

“Did I see the skins, or did I just hear about them? It’s not clear to me.”

“You found them. Three skins strung from the Cassety fence, about a mile south of here. You brought them back, carrying them as if you were carrying your babies. I saw you out the back window, trying to cross the creek with them.”

“Who would have done it—who would have done such a thing?”

“We know exactly who did it. Old Man Cassety—meanest son of a bitch up here in these hills. He’d had the land south of us for years, and was always looking for some way to gouge us for money. Hateful man, all the more hateful because none of his schemes ever worked. He saw you down at the creek one day with the raccoons, acted all concerned for your safety, said he’d been seeing three raccoons skulking around his chickens. Bald-faced lie—the man despised poultry, except to kill it himself. He said we might take your safety lightly, but he would do whatever necessary to protect what was his. I prayed they would stay clear of him, but I’m sure he trapped them, lured them on in. It was short work after that.”

“He denied it all, I’m sure,” said Peter.

“Boone lit out after him. He was waiting up on his porch; you could tell he’d been relishing the prospect of a visit. Sitting in a straight-backed chair, leaning up against the wall of his cabin, all smarmy with oozy hospitality. Carving a wooden raccoon with his big hunting knife, he said: ‘You know what they say, Boone, about coons and niggers. Only good ones—’

“‘That’s enough,’ said Boone.

“‘Ain’t had me a good nigger for years now, but I sure as hell had me some honest coons—”

“Boone again: ‘That’s enough, Old Man.’

“‘Leastwise, now that boy’ll be safe—’

“It took all of Miguel and Cesar to keep Boone off the old man. Of course, Cassety would have loved a juicy piece of litigation or a thick blade in Boone’s side, either one. Thank God, Miguel refused to let him go alone.”

“What became of the old man?” said Peter.

“Not three weeks later, one of his estranged kids found him dropped dead on that front porch, drowned in his own vomit. Apparently choked on a piece of meat.”

“And the raccoons?”

You don’t need to ask

“You mean the skins?” said Amelia.

I told you, you don’t need to

“Up at the big black walnut tree, right?” he said, easing the boy’s panic.

Thank you

“With everything else you wanted trucked up there through the years,” said Amelia, smiling ruefully. “Of course, you had to sleep with them for a good week, first.” She followed his eye on up the creek bank; the crown of the old walnut was just visible at the edge of the woods south of the house.

He stood slowly, to let the creak out of his bones.

“You go on over and say hello,” she said.

She watched him climb the bank and amble over towards the tree. Halfway there, Beast loped on over, banging his tail against Peter’s good leg.

Peter watched his daughter toddle from the house, Stella not far behind. His back was up against the hardwood walnut spine, his vision dappled by low slung branches. He was content to let the boy sit and feel the spirits of the old raccoons deep in the ground beneath him.


He felt thick black stripes painted on his cheeks, a curious nose pressed into his side. He knew enough not to look down, but to keep his eyes on the babe toddling his way.


Raw musky smell, almost rank, though the boy resisted the description.


“Daddy!” Darcy toddled in under the branches; for a moment he feared for the creature, its surprise. The nose did not pull away.


“Hey, baby,” he said, gathering his daughter in on his left side. Still, the animal did not pull away.

Darcy looked up into his father’s face, and looked on up through the dappled green leaves.

“You look younger, Daddy,” she said.



Saturday, October 03, 2009

beware: high sugar content...

If it wasn't in the gym, it was in the living room...


Sunday Scribbling #183: First Kiss

Seventh Grade: Just About Midnight

Three of us crammed into a storage closet, spray painting posters for the dance, glitter in our hair, headaches throbbing from fumes and lust.

Norma Torres is all dressed in white. I am all dressed in terror, but I must. I walk over to her and ask if she wants to dance; she keeps looking up at the stage at the idiot in orange buckskin hopping around to “Gloria.” I swear he can’t even spell it, it sounds like he’s leaving out the “i.” G-L-O-R-A…Who the hell is “Glora?”

I can’t tell if it’s amusement or interest that has her attention; she still hasn’t looked my way. I turn to go, but Elena Trapani catches my eye, nods her head back towards Norma, mouths the words Ask her again. Now.

I shout this time, over the din of Orange Julius. She turns and looks at me, the sweetest praline walking the halls of Artemis Junior High. My knees have wobbled since the first day I saw her.

She nods. We inch our way through the crowd. Wayo is diving for fish with Sandra; I’ve no clue what dance Weston is doing. Thomas? Thomas speaks for himself.

Orange Julius turns deadly on me as we reach a cleared space—plops a slow song right down on us, surprisingly good choice, surprisingly good voice.

I’m not sure who takes Norma by the hand. I’m sure it’s me, but it doesn’t feel like me. That hand in mine is soft warm candy and my body is pure grape jelly. Norma is not shy; she wants to cuddle. Warm face against my shirt, hand on the back of my neck.

I died that night and still haven’t come back.