Friday, November 30, 2007

Paper Hearts

I didn’t know I was to fall in love.

We only just met. Him, the night janitor, shunning an emptied mall. Me, a pale meditation, working to be filled.

I admit to playing coy. I eluded those ink-stained fingers, and stumbled down false corridors. He followed with a traveler's curiosity, and the ticklish frustration. I lost myself in the shadows, but he was always there, pinning me against the wall, making me believe in this new architecture. I saw myself reflected in the windows of his eyes, and laughed into the night.

From the darkness, another laugh rebounded.

And so I found this other laughing man, and we laughed together, as shadows in our Writer's puppet theater.

I didn’t know I was to fall in love.

But for His words.

Bridging the paper synapses of our hearts.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Child's Play

And now for something completely different.

A month or so ago, I wrote three children's books. Having two young kids, I am saturated with picture books every day, and wanted to take a crack at it. I'm sure nearly every parent reading this will commiserate.

And I was so utterly sick of reading Dora, and her like. Oh, Swiper, enough with the damn swiping already! We get it. You're a sneaky fox.

Give me Frog and Toad any day. Love those guys.

So my agent (who only handles my adult work) put me in contact with an old colleague of his, now working as a senior editor at the children's division of a publishing company. I submitted one of my books, and heard back from her a couple of days ago. She liked it, but still had some problems. Hence, revisions . . . and me pulling out my hair trying to cram everything into a 32-page format.

So in the spirit of my newest project:

What was your favorite children's book growing up?
Which picture books do your kids most enjoy?
Have any of you engaged in a little child's play, too?

And Swiper, no swiping!

(Oh, Mannnn...)

Monday, November 26, 2007

4 days (and 3 nights) in Paris

I've indulged in some foie gras. Had a bottle (or two) of red wine. Strolled the length of the Seine, with the Eiffel Tower as my compass.

Fallen in love again.

Now it's time to come home.

I thank everyone for their enthusiasm and kind words throughout this series. It was a pleasure to write, and I am so gratified by all of your responses. Now I just have a few questions:

Which vignette was your favorite?
Which city, or place, is your own private Paris?
Monet, or Manet?

And does anyone know where I can find a good burger?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Chair, Luxembourg Gardens

They want to scatter your ashes into this black and white impression. A bleached Seurat, with all the dots connected.

“Do you need me to write the obituary, Maman? Just say the word.”

You were hopeless at speaking French. I could barely pronounce your prickly name.

“We really need to get on this. If we want to make the Sunday edition.”

I wore a dress meant for Sundays. You spun your hat on a sun-sweetened finger.

“It’s just a matter of getting our facts straight. What year did Dad graduate from Brown?”

I dipped my toes in a nervous fountain. You laughed, and juggled Cezanne’s peaches.

“Do you remember?”

The juice dribbled down my chin.


I touch this paper chin.

What do I remember?

Not enough (a chair in Paris).

Now empty (too much).

He moved deeper than all color.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Place du Tertre, Montmartre

She is not much. Young. Shy. American.

I’ve painted her thousands of times.

Mademoiselle, I must have your portrait.”

She unstrings her bowed lips. Someone has told her about French men.

“I could not accept money. But allow me this: a poor artist’s pleasure in immortalizing such beauty.”

My muse dips her head, but sits. There is a diamond on her finger, but it reflects no husband in her eyes.

I start to do my thing. It is a reflexive thing. A soulless thing. The engine of my hands propels me to do it.

And it will be compensated.

My muse clears her throat.

“Perhaps we could paint each other.”

The engine sputters into stillness.

“You paint?”

“A little.”

Reeling, I offer her a canvas, some brushes. My friend provides an easel.

“We will paint each other painting?” I laugh.

She shrugs. “Just paint what you see. This once.”

And with a new, ungainly instrument, I do.

I paint an accordion player pulling music from the dissonant faces. I paint puddles of mercury convulsing the old, tectonic cobblestone. I paint the wordless conversation between two artists’ brushes. I paint the blue ribbon of a girl’s wrist, pumping red blood into this still-life heart.

I paint Pennsylvania fireflies in this girl’s eyes.

It is only while setting down my brush that I realize she is done.

“You first,” she says.

I show her the canvas.

My girl smiles. “You have painted me as I really am.”

“Your turn.”

She rotates her easel. The canvas is white.

“But you have done nothing!”

My girl finds her feet.

“Look at your painting again,” she instructs, before bowing her lips and turning away.

I look at my canvas, and see. My first masterpiece. At fifty-one.

But I cannot be troubled to care. Not with these sparks and embers igniting my heart, propelling me to my feet.

Her City of Lights has split the eternal night.

And everywhere, fireflies.


(Last Paris vignette here)

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Kiss, Musée Rodin

“How do you feel being ogled all day?”

“I confess to kind of liking it.”


“You’re the one with a hand on my thigh.”

“It is a lovely thigh.”

“Thank you. It would be nothing without your hand.”

Tourists shuffle by, fondling the couple with their eyes. Hands make contact, and squeeze, before floating apart.

“It doesn’t bother you?”

“The people or my impudent thigh?”

“Damn you! You know of what I speak!”

“Oh, unmerciful God, this torment of anticipation! To be embalmed! Pinned like a moth by this blade of desire! To suffer this inch of inferno between our lips and not touch the flame! To bend toward the illusion of a kiss, but not break the wave of your breath on my—”

“Oh. Well. It could be worse.”


“You could be that poor sod over there.”

“Who? The Thinker?”

They laugh.

“Well, that. But no, my sweet. I speak of the voyeurs.”


“The floating people.”

“Ah, them.”

“You see what I mean?”

“I do, my love. You are so sensible.”

“It is so hard with your lovely hand on my thigh.”

A museum guard makes an announcement. The floating people float further away, leaving stillness behind them. The marble listens.

“Where did they go, my angel?”

“You are always in the moment, darling. It’s what I love.”

“What? Did I forget something?”

“Closing time.”


The inch is breached.

The flame is touched.


(Next Paris vignette here)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Clock, Musée d’Orsay

“The Manets are to die for.”


“I really think Renoir is a master of—”

Screw that. He doesn't suffer Pretty.

The Van Goghs. Can’t miss there.

Exactly. Fuck.

Forget the paintings. Surprise him with sculpture. Something esoteric.

Camille Claudel. Rodin’s lover. Beautiful. Bonkers.

“I was overcome by her lugubrious . . . her libidinal . . .”

“I was seduced by her libidinal desperation.”

Bingo. Woman scorned. And all of that.

“Libidinal. Li-bid-i-nal.”

(What is that guard looking at?)

Fourteen minutes late is nothing, right? We once took an hour to eat an orange.

Yesterday, it took us an hour to eat an orange.

Yesterday . . .

He called me his Venus on the Waves.
He did not give his last name.
He did not buy the orange.
He did not buy me dinner.
He came to my hotel for the night.
He fucked me without a condom.
He threw up in my sink.


That goddamn ferris wheel does grind on.

And this morning . . . was it just this morning?

“Five o’clock, mon petit chou. I promise: Our love will stop all time.”

Those Picasso lips.
And rescued eyes.
Sunlight glancing off his watch.
Falling through the door.

But the clock’s hands. They are not stopping.

Fifteen minutes is nothing.



Hot guard. Coming this way.



It’s April . . . in Paris.

(What have you done to my heart?)


(Next Paris vignette here)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Le Café

“The wine will be cheaper than your Coke.”

“Our kisses cheaper still.”

Raincoat licks some blackened brûlée from The Professor’s lip, and lingers.

“With that little bit of ketchup on your dress collar, and the custard on your sleeve, you are a Monet, my love.”

“Oh, not a Monet. I’d dissolve clean away if you got too close.” Raincoat drums her fingers dully against the table. “I’m pretty sure the French don’t approve of ketchup. Our waiter looked quite disgusted with me. Look at him over there, wiping at nothing. And us here waiting.”

“Disgusted? I just thought he was looking at your breasts, and pretending not to speak English.”

“That was you.”

The Professor drops his napkin. Gets down on his hands and knees to retrieve it.

“But I’m serious. We’re like a different species here. An American abomina—”

Raincoat sucks in her breath, as the heat floods her face.

“What are you doing?”

“Painting your legs. Watching you dissolve.”

She grips the bottle’s throat, as a red heel succumbs to the floor.

I touch the bill inside my pocket, and turn toward the kitchen.

Lunch is long in Paris.

And Americans so loud.


(Next Paris vignette here)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Steps to Montmartre

The lights curve up like a dancer’s arm.

“I will follow you to the top,” he says.

“But what’s at the top that cannot be found here?”

“Dali’s moustache . . . Van Gogh’s ear . . . Picasso’s Blue Period. Modernity, my love.”

“But I am already modern.”

“Come anyway! Be inspired.”

“But these heels.”

“I will have to carry you then.”

I laugh into his mouth, and lift my leg to ensnare him. He fumbles for my garter, and the soft skin slipped to him by the Paris moon.

“We’ll never make it,” I sigh.

But those blue hands of his are too busy to care.

“Now tell me about the Sacré Couer . . .” I murmur.

He smiles, his moustache lifting.

“The Sacred Heart.”

I press the space above his heart.

“Come,” I whisper into his ear.

“Be inspired.”


(Next Paris vignette here)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Le Pont Neuf

The lights on our bridge look lonely tonight.

I am lonely tonight.

Lovers pass like fireflies. Incandescent hearts. Collars raised, they are close with their heat.

The quay cobblestone is cold and hard, my knuckles curled between its grooves, palms raised.

In America, it is autumn. The leaves tremble for an anxious fate, while someone strums nostalgia’s dissonant chord.

But spring was our prelude in the celestial city, and summer our pas a deux. This season is the absence of sound. The Seine murmurs, but I cannot hear her silver tongue. The leaves lie, quiet, on the ground. I cannot recollect that which has not happened.

And the Eiffel Tower still shimmers like a shattered diamond across my shoulder.

And the flocking tourists still squawk too loud.

And the musician still plucks his instrument’s nerves.

And the air still smells of your perfume.

And my heart screams your name.

Our bridge still stands.

It has been standing for hundreds of years.

I will wait.

(I am still so young)


(Next Paris vignette here)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Look Me In The Eye...I Won!

Thanks to Church Lady, and John Elder Robison, for holding such a fun contest on this cold, rainy weekend! With my cunning insight into his secret, organic vegetable chowder fantasies, I won a copy of Mr. Robison's bestselling, highly regarded book, Look Me In The Eye: My Life with Asperger's.

I've tracked some of John's success on the writing forum we frequent, and look forward to a compelling, thoughtful read. So thanks, guys.

And now to celebrate . . . cyber-chowder for everyone!

I am a Parasitic Writer

I am a flea...a tapeworm...a leech...that greenish bacteria flourishing in your intestines.

I absorb nutrition from bigger mortals. I am dependent on them for growth. I have a difficult time detaching myself from my hosts, for fear I might shrink away to nothing.

I am a parasitic writer.

It's not like I set out to be a parasite. It just sort of happened that way. I attached myself to Michael Ondaatje for awhile, and the hunger to write silvery, lyrical prose became too overwhelming to resist. Once I had drained him of inspiration, I moved on to Anne Tyler, and suddenly the words became less important than feasting on the rich, authentic characters presented to me. Nearly sated, I dipped into a lean, tender fable of Alessandro Baricco, and dropped all my adjectives and adverbs, like they were fussy, extra calories.

Sadly, I somehow picked them up along the way.

Hey, blame Ian McEwan. Prick.

As you might suppose, I feel a certain amount of guilt for fastening myself to others for so long. And I have a very flea-like desire to rationalize my sorry existence. So here goes...

I'm fat and satisfied. I'm working on different projects that reflect a variety of inspirations. I love all of my disparate influences. And I haven't killed a host yet.

Don't get me wrong. I don't really want to ape other writers' styles or characters. But neither do I have a problem with an author's work serving as an alarm clock that rattles awake new insights and new ideas within me. Those insights and ideas were always there, if slumbering. It's just that sometimes I need a really loud alarm clock to get my butt moving.

But me jump.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Restless Dawn

So Jason Evans is holding another flash fiction contest. If his beautiful photograph pulls 250 words from you, you might want to head on over to his blog, and take part in the fun before 11:00 p.m., November 14th.

And if you're a shameless mercenary, then yes, there are prizes (of course, you now disgust me, and I will refer to you ever more as Blog Prize Whore). Amaz(on)-ing prizes, fine. But better still, you might win a copy of the photo itself.

I really do encourage everyone to check out Jason's blog, The Clarity of Night. It's a lovely, shady spot in an overheated blogosphere.

Here's my entry, titled Homecoming:

I was meant to fall in love that night.

Homecoming Dance was my shabby canvas, a Zuckerman twin my silkier muse. Chloe Z., who claimed to be a reincarnated goddess, rubbing henna onto her hands, her hair, her calico art. I condoned this crazy for lissome legs and musical ankles, which, granted, I’d only peeped through shredded stockings and the eyelets of combat boots. The skin underneath? As wanton as a waning moon, winking across the crowded night.

I gunned the Firebird down the country road, cursing myself for being late on such a night, for such a girl. Her corsage, a weak carnation, quivered on the passenger seat, along with empty bottles and a box of rubbers.

It was autumn. The leaves were a cheap confetti, tumbling through the air.

Rounding a curve, something darted across my path. I slammed on my brakes, tires skidding, until the hood smacked something (white) and shuddered into silence.

I stepped out of the car.

Afterward, I stepped back in.

Rumors followed that Chloe was pissed. I couldn’t care. High school was a fucking fairy tale by then, without the tra-la-la ending. I drove on, down other roads.

But sprawled under this calico sky, I remember another harvest dawn. And how I shivered atop the stiffening grass, dully absorbing that autumn is Nature’s last ejaculate, before the rigor mortis of winter, and spring’s rebirth.

I was meant to fall in love that night.

But for those tumbling, tumbling leaves.

Stained henna, stained with blood.

Ready, set...


This inaugural post is just to offer a tentative hello, as I attempt to overcome my beginner's anxiety about posting...on the internet...where anyone can judge me...(even, or especially, that goofy kid from high school with the ear wax collection--Hi, Eric!)...forever and ever...until I just can't bear the white-hot scrutiny, and delete the whole damn thing.

So hello. And welcome.

This blog will be a repository for my fiction (particularly flash fiction pieces) and, hopefully, the omnipresent kick in the pants I need to write on days when I would just rather look at other people's, well, blogs. I can't really say what this hole-in-the-wall will become, but at least I'm out there now, a stealthy Murmur beneath the roar.

Naked, and shivering.