Sunday, October 30, 2005


Note: Computer in hospital, I'm stealing time on someone else's laptop just now, so I will be brief.
Walking to work the other morning, I saw first a delicate foot, wrapped neatly in a scarf, gold, red, black. A man holding the foot like the prince with Cinderella's shoe, kneeling on the sidewalk in his suit, eyes looking wide-open toward the owner of the foot, dark circles under his long lower lashes. I clear the fence and now see her sitting on a step, in rich, impeccable hijab, flawless skin flushed, a fat tear shining in the inner corner of her eye, gathering enough weight to slip free, land splashing on the cement beside her tiny hand.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

But there's always time for scratch fiction

Arlene leaned on the counter, jiggling one foot behind her. "I wonder what they're looking at?"

"Huh?" Norman was looking at the smudge she left on the glass, he'd just Windexed and she was hanging all over it. Little dolt. She looked good out front, though, the rich guys loved to buy jewelry from her, never mind she had no idea what she was talking about. She'd hold a gold chain against her neck, hanging into her cleavage and say, "Every woman's skin looks good with gold," and they only had to focus long enough to pull out a credit card.

Right now she was sprawled all the way across the counter to get a good look outside.

"Those people, what're they looking at?"

Norman stepped around the counter and ducked a little to look out the door. People were standing outside, looking up. Dozens of people out on the street, all of them looking straight up into the air.

"I'm due for a smoke," said Norman, reaching over the counter for his pack and lighter, "You watch the store, I'll see what's up."

Norman chuckled at his little pun, walking out the door, up the two steps.

He stopped next to the guy from the salon next door, squinted up at the sky, tucking a cigarette into his mouth.

"What's going on?"

The salon guy shook his head, half shook it, still staring up, mouth open, eyes wide.

That was funny, the August sun was right overhead, full wattage, but the salon guy wasn't squinting. Norman frowned upward, striking his lighter.

The flame went out, his cigarette hanging in his mouth, unlit.

"What the fuck...?"

Something was falling out of the blue sky. Snow. It was eighty degrees outside. Norman looked around. Everyone was still, staring up. Cars were stopped. Arlene was leaning slowly out the door, her face turning up.

"It's not snow, it can't be," said Norman.

Nobody said anything. Huge flakes drifted down, thicker and thicker.

Arlene froze where she stood, halfway out the door.

"Look," said Norman, "This is stupid. It's not snow." He lifted a hand to catch some, to show them all it was something else. Five, eight flakes landed in his palm, on his fingers. Slowly they grew translucent, he could see individual crystals, like when he cut out snowflakes in school, rounded scissors clipping out perfect little triangles, diamonds, circles. "No two snowflakes alike," his teacher would say, but Norman's were, all of Norman's snowflakes were identical.

More flakes lighted on his hand, the first ones melted into tiny lakes, fresh flakes caught on the shores, losing their perfect whiteness, crystal bones showing through, then dissolving into water in his palm.


My trusted computer has given it up. Forgive me, then, if I'm lax in answering all your (highly entertaining) comments, or light in posting these days: all my computer time for the immediate future is borrowed computer time.

Luck is with me though, the crash happened the day after I finished my massive re-write. Yes, I backed up the book. I feel as though I'm looking at a bullet hole left in the wall just after feeling something buzz past my ear. Life is grand.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Nobody counted on rain

this Tuesday, even the weather report showed that little sun graphic, no cloud, no dripping rain. But it showed up anyway, girl in a sundress, arms wrapped around her waist, running across the street, old Chinese couple bending in toward each other at the bus stop, heads touching.

I'm walking fast away from work, dodging the drops, sweat and rain soaking into my skin, I hear a scooter coming up from behind, scooter motor putting, and another sound layered on top of it, I stop and turn to look.

Scooterist coming quick up the road, helmet but no jacket, spreading bib of wet down the front of his shirt, arms shaking, his mouth wide open.

He's laughing.

He passes me, laughing, shirt stuck to his skin like wet toilet paper, laughing, he roars down the street.

Monday, October 17, 2005

I need another avoidance activity

When I'm avoiding working on the novel by blogging, but I can't drag my carcass in the general direction of an even half-assed post, I know it's bad. I'm pages from the end of a huge and way too time-consuming rewrite, but those last few hundred words are slippery. Damn things keep sliding away, collecting in a big puddle just underneath my keypad.

Clearly, I need to drink more.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

October 16

Today is my mother's birthday. I can't bring to mind a single one of her birthdays while I was at home, not one. Only after moving out, calling home to wish her a happy birthday, she and Dad would have gone out for dinner, or, often enough, postponed until she felt well enough.

For our birthdays, Mom made cheesecake, baked, sour cream icing and blueberries in a glaze. Sweetened with honey instead of sugar. Bricks of cream cheese, cold from the refrigerator, softened an hour or so on the counter, it seemed to take hours more wearing it down with the wooden spoon, mixing in the honey. We crushed graham crackers in a bag, rolling pin over and over. Butter melted on the stove, fingers blending warm butter into cracker crumbs.

I remember her hand over mine, pressing the crust into the bottom of the springform pan.

Strawberries or mandarin oranges ringing the top, blueberries in the center.

A small piece would leave us sleepy in the living room, bellies round, my brothers' legs stretched out, crossed at the ankles, conversation turning lazy, hands behind our heads, laughing.

Often enough, Mom would already be in bed, energy enough to make the cake, but running out, like a car low on gas, her smile wearing down, by dinner shrunk back to the bedroom, Dad fixing a plate to take in, how many birthdays when she couldn't hold it up long enough to have a piece of her own, a sliver maybe the next day from the fridge.

She was sick so long, ever since I can remember, we thought she'd outlive us all.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Billy in Zion

I am off for a short trip to Utah, but will post when I return.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

As if death were a daily routine

Samuel loosened his tie, squinting up at the sun. His beige suit looked dingy in this sunlight, he could see grime at the cuffs. Should take it to the cleaners, if there's time. Tomorrow.

He looked at his watch. Half an hour before the meeting. He shouldn't be out here, should be going through his notes, but the office was so cold today. Sun warm on his cheek. Samuel turned his face up, stopped on the sidewalk, a woman grunted almost running into him, bent her steps around him, the other people on the street following her, flowing around Samuel.

I am a rock in the stream, thought Samuel, his face to the sun.

Angela wasn't happy with him this morning, he was slower than usual, holding her up, holding the kids up. They should have made it to school okay, though. She kept bumping into him in the kitchen, You still working on that coffee? Bumping, then moving around him, it was easy enough to adjust.

A lot of people out on the street at this time of day, thought Samuel. Lunchtime, why don't I ever come out for lunch?

He liked the feeling of hundreds of people moving around him, shoulders brushing against his, voices, thoughts crowding into him. He could smell hairspray, and cheap cologne, and bad breath, even that was something, Samuel breathed it all in.

I never liked crowds before, thought Samuel.

Samuel drew in another breath, and it stopped. He let go and tried again. It was caught in his chest. Caught there, hung up, and now he couldn't let it go.

Already, thought Samuel.

He looked at his watch. Ten minutes to the meeting. They would have to start without him. Just as well, he never did look over his notes. He wondered where Angela was, this time of day. Did she go out for lunch? He thought maybe she did. The kids, his girls, would be in the cafeteria, green trays, fish in a square, peas or lima beans. He could hear kid voices bouncing off the floors, long cafeteria tables. He looked around at the people on the street, then up at the sun. He tried another breath. Nothing.

I wish I'd worn the blue suit, thought Samuel, as his knees gave, bending, falling slow to the sidewalk.
Thanks to Maqroll and Deniz Eskisi

Monday, October 03, 2005

Nothing wastes

A friend recently wrote a book, the first part of which takes place in 13th century China. The main character's grandfather dies, and the family enters a three year mourning. As part of that mourning, the father "...spoke every day to his children about their grandfather's life and character."

My mother died in January. These are different times, and our rituals have been diluted, watered down and thinned out to a barely discernable skein of gestures: coffin, funeral, flowers, eulogy. But grief expands beyond the designated days or weeks of mourning, airplane to visit family, time off work, sympathy cards.

Her birthday was in October. Dad makes a calendar every year to track family birthdays (we're a big family, and growing, birthdays populate every month), and each month features family photos, often of the birthday girls or boys. So I turn the calendar over to October, and there's Mom. Mom in yellow, holding a yellow rose from the yard. Mom in the kitchen, gesturing like Vanna White. Mom in the snow, on the phone, in the pool.

Mom through Dad's eyes. Theirs was a great love, an affair amplified through years of retelling, a towering legend they built together (a poet and an artist), with the collaboration of their kids.

I'm edging around my point, creeping up to it by degrees. I've wondered how best to mourn Mom, to acknowledge her life without creating an idol - a doll - of her. And this is where I land: I will tell her story. In pieces, not comprehensive, not whole, but my stories of her (single-point perspective, like late Medieval art). And, I will post some of her poems alongside. So, at least through the anniversary of her death, I will use this forum - though not for this exclusively - to say goodbye.

Other posts:
Storm in August
October 16
Old Ranch Dies

This poem seems entirely too appropriate.

Nothing Wastes
Struck from the rock
Out of the fume of smoke,
The first spark spins.

Hastily, I feed it
What small tinder
I can gather;
Plunder woven
Out of vacant nests;
Outgrown down, small twig things
(Bird breast-bones, polished
Pinky fingers, skeletons of trees)--
An excess of debris
Feeds flame
Sent spiralling

Above the glaciered stone,
Above the eyes flow,
Frozen into streams.
Feeds flame avalanches devastate,
Log jams, useless even
For a tomb. Springs fire
Releasing streams to melt
In torrents and run down,
Dislodging stone moves
Fractionally, from my prison
And I see, finally

That nothing wastes.
Not windfalls, winter leavings
From her nests, not spent
Trees. Not pain. No waste
In death--nor in the
Bitter taste, the offering
Of suffering
Upon the breath.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Help Billy

I've lost my way in blogland. And I'm asking you, dear readers, to help me find my way back.

I'm nothing without comments. I live for your comments. I am a comment whore. I'll go back and read a good comment fifty times in a day. And then I'll want to write more stuff, and read your stuff, and leave comments, and the beast feeds itself.

And I can't help noticing, my comments have been mighty thin lately.

So, I'm asking for your input. What would you like to see more of? Less of? If I must post cheesecake photos of myself for Half Nekkid Thursday, then by golly, I will buy a camera and strip.

There seem to be three different types of things that I write, and I'm taking votes on which you like best.

The first would be found objects, little scenes or people I observe about town, like Paleface or What Shondelle doesn't know.

The second I'm calling true stories, more personal (but not confessional) posts. See Billy goes under and Storm in August.

Last of all, of course, is scratch fiction.

That doesn't mean I'll necessarily eliminate the others, but you might give me a clue as to what works and what doesn't.

And if you want to see me write about something specific, or try something completely new, throw me a suggestion - I love a challenge!

"Too much oxygen..."

On the bus the other day, a soft voice piped up beside me. "What magazine is that?"

I look over to my seatmate, a bearded lady with thick glasses, hair in a neat ponytail, ash-colored skin. I think she's a bearded lady, but here in SF we have all the ranges of gender and between-gender, she might be mid-transition from male to female or vice-versa, or someone happily in-between.

Her voice is sweet as soft-serve ice-cream.

I'm reading The Week, and I show her the cover. We discuss the articles, how CSI gives criminals ideas, how hookworm can cure allergies, how leeches are making a comeback.

She calls across the aisle to a woman standing up, "Mama, you wanna come sit on my lap?"

She giggles as the other woman shakes her head.

"Oh my," the bearded lady says, "I've had too much oxygen today!"

I want to ask her about this, is she taking oxygen treatments? is this just an expression of hers? some other sort of treatment that involves oxygen? but it's my stop, I get up to let the other woman sit beside her, and she's talking and giggling, hand fluttering above her breasts, and as I step out of the bus, I can hear her exclaim:

"My oh my oh my, too much oxygen today!"