Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I Believe

I believe in winds and
words, and the wild
contractions that come
of confusing them

I believe in
until the bone of
desire breaks farther

I believe in double-jointed
lips, a mouth of hips
and muscles bedding
bruises in memory

I believe in falling
for rising and the
sloughing of self for
a skin of becoming

I believe in

I believe


Monday, January 26, 2009

Letters (Part Eight)

(Letters is my series exploring a war-time
relationship across the miles. Here are Parts One,
Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and Seven.)

Dear Mrs. Freeman,

I am writing to you, because your Patrick cannot. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you that he has contracted pneumonia. The diphtheria toxin can paralyze the nerves in patients’ soft palates, making it difficult to swallow food. The ward physician believes he inhaled some food particles into his lungs, along with a new bacterium. Luckily, the antibiotic he’s receiving has shown great promise in other patients I’ve nursed. But I won’t lie to you about the severity of his condition. Every breath is a struggle, and his fever is quite high, in spite of our best efforts. Awareness of his surroundings comes and goes. This has been the state of things for the last two days.

I can see his lips form your name from time to time. Elise. He grabs my hand, but I know it’s you he sees. I’m not certain whether he’s experiencing some comfort, or more pain, during these visions. His eyes seem to be searching.

I am taking good care of him. Or I’m trying as hard as I know how. Your husband is a special man, Mrs. Freeman. I’ve grown quite fond of him. And if you’ll permit me this, I’ve grown fond of you. I know it’s strange, as we’ve never met. But Mr. Freeman has a way of talking. When he tells me about you, you assume a shape and color inside my mind. Familiar, somehow. And, perhaps, a part of me wishes that I were in your shoes right now. Back at the home I long to know again. With someone so hungry, in spite of his suffering, to walk all those miles back to me.

I had a love once, too. Maybe Patrick has told you.

I’m sorry. It’s late, and I am so very tired. It’s been weeks since I had a day off, days since I felt fresh air on my face. I shouldn’t burden you with my nonsense. You’re likely scared to death.

Trust in these antibiotics, Mrs. Freeman. They are miracle drugs. Your husband is strong. He fights. And he has something to live for.

I will write every day to keep you informed of his condition. God bless you. And may He end this war.

Yours truly,

Hannah Abbott


Part Nine is here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Letters (Part Seven)

(Letters is my series exploring a war-time
relationship across the miles. Here are Parts
One , Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six.)

Dear Patrick,

I’m in this unholy place of wanting you to be well, and hoping you’re sick enough to come home to me. I’m like one of those dogs of Pavlov’s, except that when I hear the bell, I don’t know whether to salivate or flinch before a shock to come. My mind has frozen in place, even as my heart is wild with blood.

Lana Jenkins’ son almost died of diphtheria. Did you know? It was twenty years ago, but she cried when I gave her the news of your condition. She stroked my arm like you were already gone, while I stood there, fumbling this mask of fortitude that these iron women snap on. It makes me want to scream, or laugh. Something in between, probably. But I’m being uncharitable. Everyone has been awfully kind.

I’m actually too scared to hope for anything, darling. I’m too numb to allow myself the small pleasure of dreams. Do you know what I’ve been doing for the last few days? Cleaning. A terrible, ammonia-dazed scouring and scrubbing. My nails are ragged, but this house has never been so damn sterile. A bird slammed into the kitchen pane yesterday to congratulate me. But no window is ever transparent enough to fool me. Not until I see your face on the other side.

I am still here, Patrick. My heart is laced to yours. That will never change. I am conscious of, and connected to, all of your pain. When you say you have trouble breathing, I fill my lungs with more air. When you say that your thoughts are scattering, I want to collect them with a butterfly net. When you admit to wanting to protect me from the truth, I long to be your shield.

Get better, darling. That is all that matters. As for me, I’m putting my sponge and broom aside for now. I need to take a nice, hot bath.




Part Eight is here

Friday, January 16, 2009

It Is Always Summer When She Dreams

It is always summer when she dreams,
a gauze of sunshine softening knees,
breasts over belly, hammock between
awareness dulled by a novacaine breeze

It is always summer when she dreams


Andrew Wyeth died today at 91. Although a realist
in many respects, there was something intensely
magnified about his work to me. The moment was
everything--beautiful in its capture, but melancholy
in its eventual surrender to the arms of time.
This painting is titled, "Day Dream."

For anyone who's interested, you can check
out my salute to "Christina's World" here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


It was the coldest day of the coldest week in Cleveland’s history when Frank won $500 from a Big Bananas scratch-off lottery ticket.

“Hot dog!” he said, shaking his head in the truck’s cab.

It was the kind of cold that yanked people’s shoulders up to their ears. Froze tears before they could swim in the satisfaction of falling. Turned girls’ nipples hard as nails.

“Jiminy Christmas!”

Frank looked around the grocery store parking lot, longing to share his joy with another. But everyone he observed wore the raw, plucked expression of chickens without their feathers.

A mother exasperated with her bawling toddler.

A middle-aged man slipping on ice, and losing all his microwave dinners.

An older woman with car trouble, who stared at her engine like it was an unfaithful lover.

Frank’s eyes narrowed. He sat for several minutes, running the winning lotto ticket across the scruff of his chin.

Frank cracked his door. His truck sure could use a paint job. Another blue chip fell to the ground.

He walked across the ice-sheeted lot with some difficulty. His shoes were losing their tread.

Frank tipped his glasses back on the bridge of his nose. He’d worn the same pair for twelve years. His granddaughter was growing blurry.

Frank walked through the swooshing doors, whistling. They positioned the flower department at the front of the store. The hard seduction, before the costly truth of all those necessities could add up in shoppers’ minds.

Frank approached a bored worker.

“I want to buy your flowers.”

“Which arrangement, sir?” the girl said, tongue flipping her chewing gum.

“All of them.”

“Uh, what?”

“Yep, $500 worth. Or all the roses. Whichever comes first,” Frank said. “Girls like roses, right?"

The gum flipped out of the girl’s mouth, and landed on the floor. He smiled at her.

With the help of the girl, Frank exchanged his Big Bananas ticket for cash, and carried all the flowers outside. He offered her a dozen red roses.

“You have kind eyes,” he told her. She blushed with pleasure, and took the roses from his arthritic hand, before turning back inside.

The mother with her toddler rolled out.

“Ma’am? Your son wants you to know you're the best mom in the world.” He handed the pink roses to the child, who extended them to his mother with a squeal and soggy smile. She started to laugh, and tousled his hair. So proud.

Frank spread the rest of his city garden in much the same fashion. A few people refused, but most accepted the gift and compliment with the same flutter people savor when hearing spring birdsong.

When the roses were all gone, Frank walked across the parking lot, to the woman still frozen before the dead engine. Her cheeks were siren red.


She turned to him with gutted eyes. “Yes?”

“I don’t have any more flowers, but I’d love to pay for your tow.”

Her knees unlocked, she leaned into him, and his arm wrapped around.

And when her warm tear fell on his old shoe, it was with the sweetest satisfaction.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Letters (Part Six)

(Letters is my series exploring a war-
time relationship across the miles. Here are
Parts One , Two, Three, Four, and Five.)

Dear Elise,

I’m coming home.

Are you still standing? Good. Because it’s not for at least a month more. But there is a day now. Something to work toward, and live for. Spring has come early this year.

My dear, you were right about this illness. It’s not the flu. I acquired a case of bacterial diphtheria. It’s nearly a pandemic around here. I have to be quarantined for a few weeks more. They tell me I’ll be weak and worthless when I finally get out. As miserable as I have been, I can’t help but want to kiss the little buggers. This thing was my ticket out of purgatory. I have no shame in the joy and relief I feel. Not while looking at your photograph. You seem to be smiling for a reason.

I have suffered, Elise. You were right to worry. I apologize for wanting to protect you. I see now that the truth is our strongest tether. Because it’s a straight line. Not curved, like even the kindest deception. Never seeing what’s around the bend. Only shadows. That wasn’t fair to you. I am sorry, my dear.

It’s hard to think in this place. To dissect your own thoughts. And stitch them back together again. It’s taken me all day to write this, to find a head for normalcy. Everything has weight here. It’s a chore to swallow, and work to breathe. The room is baking something spoiled, under this cloying perfume of disinfectant. Hannah hands me cotton soaked in alcohol to keep near my nose, so I don’t have to inhale the bodily juices of all my fellow sardines. Yes, blood has a smell. Chemical. Cuts straight through. I thought I knew it well from the field, but it’s a constant companion here. The alcohol stings, but at least it doesn't have a history.

I’m getting tired, Elise. Not making much sense. This happens at night now. I will find you in dreams, and finish the rest.




Part Seven is here

Friday, January 9, 2009


Rub me like I am the
string and you are the bow
and then maybe I’ll make
a sound, some kind of
holy unbecoming,
instead of this long
flat drone of mouth
sewn wide and
atomic words that won’t
grip the teeth
but implode by my

If desire is song,
numb is stacked silence,
so I'll pick them apart
with lead-lined gloves
and pluck myself


(The video is Zoe Keating's "Tetrishead")

Monday, January 5, 2009


It's that time again!!

Starting Wednesday, January 7th, please join Jason Evans at The Clarity of Night for his tenth, community-building short fiction contest.

Stumbling upon Jason's "Halo" contest a year and a half ago was a great gift, and very instrumental in establishing my own blogging presence. So I always look forward to seeing new participants, and touching base with the veterans who share in my enthusiasm. It's a wonderful chance to give and receive feedback, and to maybe win some booty (yes, Jason is upping the booty--$50 worth for first place!). Most importantly, it's just damn fun.

So if you're inspired by Jason's "Ascension," compose an original work of 250 words or less, any form/genre. Let's all rise to the challenge! January could use a lift. :)

Friday, January 2, 2009


“Wow,” she said.

“What?” he asked from the bed.

“Dawn already. We made it.”

He yawned and rubbed at his eyes.

“We’re too old for this crap,” he said.

“Speak for yourself,” she said, watching the sun crisp the red of a robin’s breast. “I feel great.”

“I’m so heavy,” he said. “And yet the room spins.”

She turned from the window, sizing him up.

“Well, there’s your problem,” she said.

“What, the alcohol? Blame the Lockharts.”

“No. It’s not that,” she said, approaching the bed. “You’re wearing too many clothes.”


“Mm hmm. Big problem,” she said. “It’s a new year, darling. Cast off the old burdens.”

He chewed on a fuzzy lip.

“Not too sure what can be done,” he said. “With me being incapacitated.”

From the bedside, she grabbed the cuff of his blazer, and rolled him free of it.

“Better?” she said.

“Better,” he agreed. “But still pretty heavy.”

She hiked the skirt of her dress and dimpled the mattress with her knees. Straddling his waist, she loosened a knot under his Adam’s apple. His neck burned as the trident tie was whipped away.

“Thanks,” he said. “I can finally breathe.”

Her knees slid to the sides. A hot weight pressing in.

“On second thought . . . ”

“Still feeling heavy?” she said. Her nail tapped at the first button on his collar.

He just watched her in reply. With eyes still drunk on night.

Her fingers sharpened their fever. She finished off the rest of his clothes with the speed of silence. Pulling her dress off, she tossed it over the headboard. It dropped to the floor as she unwound her hair and let it spill over his chest. The static electricity crackled.

His ribs leaped at their flesh.

She reached with her mouth for all of his tired places. To swallow his weight. The soft secret under his earlobe. The crescent of his throat. That hard screw buried beneath his shoulder. Her lips melted into the palm of his hand (she loved his hands), before lifting lower. The scent of that skin rubbing deeper than memory, broader than lust. Massaging its fury.

He pulled her roughly to his mouth. Finding their center.

“I love—”

“I want—”

But old words were not enough as they drank from something new.