Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lay Your Head Down

And what I'm thinking of just this time
Why don't you lay your head down in my arms?
In my arms.
Lay your head down in my arms.

--Keren Ann, Lay Your Head Down

She had to make it out of the money room.

Words galloped from thoroughbred tongues, all piling into her right temple. A toxic clock marked her agony, while a door bewitched her with its slinky crevices. She wondered if she could turn the knob with the weight of her—

She had to make it out of the elevator.

It was supposed to count down the nine stories. But it was going up three . . . four . . . gritting her teeth, she saw the Kabuki faces around her growling with a feral pleasure, pawing at one another with claws and precious spittle. She rocked back on her heels and touched a cheek with her free hand. It was solid. This was still living. Squeezing closer to the wall, she became aware of a string around her heart, pulling her toward—

She had to make it onto the subway.

But a homeless man needed something from her.

“Please . . . please?”

She wasn’t sure who was speaking. The voice tore off that dull blade in her head she had conditioned to sheathing. But she speared her eyes to the yellow safety line until the man’s shadow lengthened, and the shrieking train spent its climax. The engine gasped, she relaxed, and the only shadow left on the platform was something like her, with all the color leaked out. The string around her heart kept its demands. Loosening her scarf, she let it drop to the tracks and slipped between a train's sliding doors.

She had to—


She wanted inside the brownstone building.

The string was taut now. As rigid, and fine, as a spider’s arrow, spinning her into a warm web. It drew her up the stairs, and through the door.

Its other end lived in the den, upon the leather couch, in a land without clocks.



He beckoned.

She came.

The skin of her face was smooth. His chest was not. She laid her head down, two dark shadows swirling into one. The string shimmered.

And danced.

[Painting by Marc Chagall]

Friday, July 25, 2008

In Fair Verona

“Well, goodbye, then."

He leaned forward as she stepped back.

"Later." She turned, aborting their waltz. “Thanks for walking me back. You really didn’t have to.”

“I know.”

Watching her take the stairs up to the apartment, he understood that, as her calculus tutor, his life was tangential to hers. His pull on her as weak as the moon’s gravity upon the sun. He believed he was okay with that. But today she pierced him with that gauzy skirt, not caring to conceal the razor burn on the legs beneath. Recollecting the intimacy of those small, angry bumps next to his knees, his hands curled into fists.

She paid him, damn it. To understand derivatives. Nothing more.

But there was something about a balcony that begged to be climbed.


Her key paused in the lock. She looked down in a manner that suggested she had already forgotten him. Feigning interest in the dumpster, he attempted a laugh. But he choked on the dirty air.

“Yeah?” she asked.

“Nothing.” He shook his head. “Just something stupid.”

She leaned her hips into the rail. “What?”

“Only . . . ”

“Jesus, Daniel.” She rolled her eyes, falling back into her sandals. “Spill it.”

“My friends, in high school.” His cheeks flamed. “They called me ‘Romeo.’”

She concealed a smile with her keys. “Oh?”

He shrugged. “They were being ironic.”


He waited for anything else.

“I never really felt like a Juliet, you know.” With a key, she carved something into the rail, her hair spilling forward. “My parents were these romantic freaks, and I guess—”

She broke off.

“They thought you should be, too?”

“Yeah,” she said. “But it always kind of embarrassed me. People can make too many assumptions.”

“I know.”

She blew on her bangs and adjusted the strap of her bag. “Anyway.”

He lifted a hand, and smiled up at her. “Goodbye, then.”

She nodded and turned back toward the door. “See you on Thursday, Daniel.”

But something in her voice had turned soft. He had widened her circle by a degree, maybe two.

It was enough. He turned away, feeling the shadows of the day dissolve into night. Whistling, a little.

This was merely the balcony scene. He still had three more acts.


Here are a couple of my favorite interpretations of the classic Shakespeare scene, by way of Youtube: the 1968, Zefferelli production, and re-imagined in song as West Side Story. Check them out...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Flash

And then, for one glorious, supreme
moment, came "the flash."

It had always seemed to Emily, ever since
she could remember, that she was very,
very near to a world of wonderful beauty.
Between it and herself hung only a thin
curtain; she could never draw the curtain aside--
but sometimes, just for a moment, a wind
fluttered it and she caught a glimpse of the
enchanting realm beyond--only a glimpse--
and heard a note of unearthly music.

L.M. Montgomery,
Emily of New Moon


I sometimes think that writing--or any pursuit of one's passion--is our clumsy breath on that curtain. Most of the time, it stubbornly stays put. But when true inspiration strikes, that corner lifts, and we connect with all the beauty and rapture beyond.

If just for a moment.

I wasn't particularly like Emily as a child. Her last name wasn't "Starr" for nothing. She was a strange girl: a little mystical, a lot temperamental, whereas her sister in letters--the plucky, lovable Anne of Green Gables--kept her feet nearer to P.E.I. earth. I loved them both. I still love them. The fiction of our grade-school years imprints us like none other, after all.

But there was a darkness to Emily's New Moon world that appealed to me. I didn't completely understand her depth as a character, but I was willing to take the plunge. Her "flash" was something I wanted to share in. And now it's something I--like so many of you--still chase.

Oh, did I mention she was a writer?

(This post is dedicated to Sheri, the Anne to my Emily. :) )

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fields of Gold

The wind implores
the wings of her hair,
But she only soars on
the lift of his words—

I love you.

And when she swoops
into his dark grain,
the flame bends, as
tandem natures cling



A huge thank you to Jason Evans
for honoring me with first place in his
"Running Wind" contest for my entry,
And Miles To Go Before She Sleeps.

A wonderful recognition in a field of
such talent. Congratulations to
all the winners and participants! And to
Jason and Aine, for running such a
flawless, and fun, contest.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Impossible Dream

Its shadows reflect the absence of water.

The last time they took it out was…what?



He’d taken her fishing on her birthday. She had resisted long enough. Grandpa stocked his pond with trout, some carp. One could baptize them, their numbers were so few.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she baited the hook. And still heard the worm scream behind her eyes.

Not much was said.

Your jump shot is coming along.

Jen never passes me the ball.

It will come. Just keep plugging away.

Once, their silk lines tangled like a morning spider web. The accidental contact embarrassed her, and she fiddled with the reel.

Her pretending not to notice the skin cancer on his ear.

His eyes avoiding new breasts, arrived at that year.

Their boat a tiny island. Unshared.

Swollen with the insects’ persistent plea, she almost confessed that she didn’t care about jump shots. Basketball.

Stupid sports.

But no.

They floated in a blue haze, until she snagged a decent trout. He helped her bring it in, anticipation stretching the old rope of his muscles.

But that surprised mouth, and dumb stare. Instinct unleashed a squeal, as she tossed the slippery thing into the air.

The splash of adrenaline hooking her giddy side. The imagination.

Look at the little sucker go! Let’s call him Don Quixote, Grandpa—

But his gaze sagged to the empty cooler by his feet.

Dragging the boat onto land, and flipping it over, she understood the outing to be a failure. She had hurt him, because of herself.

He climbed the hill with some effort. With her tennis shoes squelched in the muddy bank, she watched him go.

Tears leaked from her eyes.

She called them allergies. All that white pine.

There is a distance that’s longer than years.

But she climbs into the two-seater, anyway.

The fish are still there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

La Vie En Rose

Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La vie en rose

--Edith Piaf

Do you remember Paris afternoons?

When there was the impression of contact
as we lapped at a lazy sorbet,
and I pointed to the sky, saying,
That cloud looks like a Rodin
as dreamed by Monet.

You with your chocolate,
me my strawberry.
So when lips brushed lips,
we tasted of Valentine’s Day.

On a Paris afternoon.

Monday, July 14, 2008





You likely know this, but Jason Evans is holding his "Running Wind" short fiction (250 words max.) contest, and is accepting entries through 11 p.m. Wednesday, July 16th. As usual, there's a lot of talent on display, and I've really enjoyed reading all of the entries. Thanks, Jason, for running such a finely tuned contest!

My entry can be found here.

Vroom, vroom...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Moon River

She liked how he said her name. Like the new language of her on his tongue was a sweet to be sucked on.


She smiled into the phone.

“I was just wondering what you thought about life after death.”

She sat on her bed.

“This is why you called?”

“I think it’s important. Don’t you?”

Audrey Hepburn began a muted Moon River on the TV. Her thoughts fluttered.

“I don’t know . . . isn’t it more important to think of this moment? How we’re living?”

He worked the graveyard shift because it offered better pay. She worked days. When they had met two months ago, this hadn’t been a big deal. An ambulance wailed across his night, while crickets strummed in hers. Whatever. They had to do what they . . .

“Well, yes. But life, death. They’re connected. What we think of death influences how we live. How much we’re willing to risk.”

“I suppose.”

He sighed.

“Here’s the thing: I just lost a patient. A newlywed. Car crash. His wife went bonkers. Grabbed a syringe and started slashing at her skin. Had to be sedated, and—”

Tears filled her eyes.

“Aw, hell,” he mumbled.

“It’s okay, Ethan. You’re allowed. It sucks.”

He sniffed. “Thanks.”

Audrey Hepburn had the saddest, most beautiful eyes of any creature she had ever seen. Wasn’t she in a movie where she played God?

“But it got me thinking, Lauren. Do you think they’ll ever be together again?”

“The dead man and his wife?”


She inched the volume up on the television.

We're after the same rainbow's end--
waiting 'round the bend,
my huckleberry friend,
Moon River and me.

Audrey smiled.

She turned off the television.

“I’m not sure that I do.”

A long silence. Then—


“Yes, Ethan.”

“Then what the hell are we doing spending this lifetime apart?”

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


With kaleidoscope eyes,
and faerie's wings,
we slipped between
its satin sheets

Flipping like mermaids
in our deep


I also wanted to thank Vesper and Billy for honoring me with the Arte y Pico award. Both are beautiful writers whose blogs are peaceful shelters in a sometimes stormy day.

I would honor five other bloggers, but in all honesty, most of my selections have been similarly awarded.

Thanks, guys!!

Saturday, July 5, 2008


I have no commitments to these clouds,
My watch I dropped at the side of the road.

The sun says it’s now,
The grass says I’m due,
And my soul’s tree sighs,
Welcome home.

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!
Thoreau once insisted.

And for a cosmic tick,
I hear it,
I feel it,
I walk on Walden Pond.

But that gospel preaches solitude, one meal a day;
I will suck marrow from more than one bone.

So watch
As I complicate my vision
with this modern machine
(so as to share it with you),
and turn back to the car,
engine still running.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Old Barn

There was to be company for supper, and Mama needed her to mind the baby.

Ruth hitched Samuel to her hip, and scooped a bucket to fetch water from the neighbor’s well. With the drought this summer, theirs was mud and stone. When Mama was all hot and bothered, and muttering to her Lord, it was best to move like lightning.

“Mercy, Sammy. You smell like an outhouse.”

He slobbered over a toothless grin, while the chickens scattered at her stride.

Ruth scrunched her nose at the foulness staining her apron, but didn’t stop. All of his diapers—and two-year-old Peter’s—were drying on the line. Everything had fallen one step behind since Mama started taking in sewing work, on account of Father losing his job as a—

As a—

Well, no one ever bothered to properly explain what it was he did.

But whatever it had been, he had come home dark as thunderclouds. In want of that sharp sludge in the jugs Mama took to kicking from time to time.

Ruth tripped down the rutted road, humming “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” for Sammy. Mama didn’t approve of the Irish on account of their being the Whores of Babble-on, but Father sang the tune on those evenings when his cheeks were flush and his heart wide. Mama seemed to forget God altogether then.

Passing by the pasture gate, Ruth paused. It was open again.

“Houdini!” she hissed, spotting the black mare in the road ahead. “You naughty—”

She started toward her favorite horse, when she heard the sound. Something low, and snuffling. Something to strangle her song.

Her eyes twisted toward the old barn. A cold wind clutched her neck, though the day was fine.

“Hush, Sammy,” she said, though the boy was strangely docile.

Ruth approached the barn, swinging her bucket. Still wanting to believe in that blue, blue sky.

Through a gap in the grey siding, she saw her father, sitting on a stool. An empty jug lay on its side.

Tears streamed down his cheeks.

His lips smiled hugely about Grandpa’s Burnside carbine rifle.

Hands choked the muzzle.

Toe on the trigger.

She dropped her bucket, and shielded Sammy’s head against a thin shoulder.

Her father’s wild eyes turned, and bulged. The toe slipped.

“Get outta here, Ruthie,” he sobbed, spitting out the cold iron. Rising, he listed to the side.

She stared at the dark weapon in his hand.

“Din’t you hear, girl?" he slurred, charging toward her, spittle spraying. "I said, get.”

She got.

Even remembering to close the pasture gate behind her.

And when she heard that rifle fire, something like Mama’s Holy Ghost passed through her small body, when she saw that big, sweet horse drop to its side.