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Snow White Speaks by Beate Sigriddaughter

July 24, 2010 4 comments

Well, here I lie in my glass coffin, not entirely alive, but not entirely dead either, like a frozen soul waiting to thaw out, waiting to be seen, watching the world pass me by at a bewildering distance. Better that than from the midst of it all, you ask? Or maybe better from heaven or any other detached distance than not at all?

Why is there such opposition in the world to women who really live? Only in the glass casket do we seem to be entirely acceptable. Once the first excitement, the first sigh of relief of being alive—actually alive and in front of the prince!—has been sighed, everything becomes a matter of great anxiety. What should you do with this precious life? And often the anxiety gets compounded with questions like, are you good enough? Pleasing enough? Pretty enough? Sometimes it seems easier to just stay frozen under glass.

But of course I’m not in heaven. I didn’t properly die. I’m merely a matter of arrested development, or arrested enjoyment of life, if you will. Sometimes this makes me cynical, and sometimes not.

Which does make me a kind of, “I’m every woman,” doesn’t it? Except, of course, that I’m mostly still girl.

There’s one thing you can practically count on, though: there is always an apple somewhere. If there’s an apple involved, it’s always a given that something of significance is going on. If you don’t want to take my word for it, ask Eve, ask Helen of Troy.

How did I ever end up in this glass coffin?

How do I hope to get out of here?

Well, let me tell you.

They told me one wintry day my real mother was in one of her most dreamy states, sewing by herself in her room. She stepped to the window with her sewing in her hand, drawn by the beauty of the snowy world outside, dazzled by the gently falling sparkles. The window frame was ebony wood, rich black. She stood in the frame of the black wood in front of the snowflakes drifting down like a glittering curtain of peace. It was so heartrendingly beautiful that, for a moment, she stopped paying attention to what she was doing, and she inadvertently pricked her finger with her sewing needle. Three drops of her blood fell into the pristine snow on the window sill with its biting scent of winter. Three drops of blood falling on snow is usually another sign, much like the ubiquitous apple, that something significant is going on.

They tell me she wished for a daughter then, a girl with skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as the ebony wood. In other words, she wished for me.

I’ve often wondered, though, if she was all by herself, how did anybody know all this to tell me about it later?

Anyway, I like to imagine that she was already pregnant with me. Maybe she was feeling sad that day. Why sad? Well, I figure she must have been. I never met her, obviously, but from the stories I’ve been told, she had a fairly melancholy nature, and sad was probably how she felt most of the time. Those who aren’t always sad are more likely to go to a party or a ball than sewing by themselves in their room. After all, she was the queen and sewing for her was pretty much optional. She could easily have asked one of her servants to do the sewing for her.

What I suspect happened was that my father was already carrying on with my stepmother. Maybe I was even my own mother’s last ditch effort at something, though I don’t know what exactly she might have been hoping for. At any rate, by the time I was born, her trust in the benefits of living must have faded and so she opted for the face-saving way out. She died in childbirth.

Nobody ever questioned that my father remarried, and so quickly at that. It was how things were done in the world.

If I ever get out of here and get married, I sure hope my marriage will be different. Don’t we all, though? One thing’s for sure:  Daddy’s remarriage had nothing to do with getting a new mommy for me.

In the first place, my stepmother was almost still a child herself when Daddy married her, and then counting back even more so, of course, when he carried on with her before my real mother even died. All in all, my stepmother probably already disliked me before I was ever conceived and born.

I can just see her begging Daddy to marry her, pouting, and maybe kneeling in front of him, kissing his hand. Actually, that last scenario, hand-kissing and all, is a picture I find a bit hard to image. Could have happened, though. In any event, Daddy would have told her, no, he couldn’t possibly divorce my mother. Not even for her. It just wasn’t done. Besides, my mother was pregnant with me. Protecting unborn children was always of the highest priority. There was even a chance I could have come out as the boy child Daddy coveted, though in the end it turned out otherwise.

So for Q’An I was a dreadful inconvenience, growing into a baby in my gentle and long-suffering mother’s body and providing my mother with marriage insurance and maternal respectability while she, Q’An, was obviously providing my dad with far more entertaining companionship than puking from morning sickness and sitting in her room and sewing by herself.

Meanwhile of course my mother had already given up her spirit long before she gave up her ghost, if you know what I mean. Eventually, however, she did give up her ghost, too, and now the coast was clear for a new queen.

Q’An glittered and glided right into place with her exotic beauty. There was nothing, but nothing, maternal about her. Ever since I’ve known her, her name was Q’An, which, she insisted, had to be spelled exactly that way, “Q‑‘‑A‑n,” but it had to be pronounced “queen.” Whatever, right? She sparkled like a ballroom dance professional. There were always tons of rhinestones sculpted all over her dresses in the most fascinating patterns. Her favorite colors were greens and blues. On her fingers and at her throat she wore her real diamonds. And she usually had rhinestones or diamonds, or both, somewhere in her hair. When I was little, I loved to play with lost rhinestones that lay scattered on the castle ballroom floor. I don’t recall her ever losing a diamond.

All of which goes to show that my real mother was simply a retiring, shy lady, because there definitely was a ballroom in the castle, and there was lots of entertainment to be had, including a huge collection of music from Vivaldi to Julio Iglesias. Truly.

Well, Q’An was clearly not retiring. Not she. We had ball after ball, and afterwards I was allowed to play with the lost rhinestones I would find on the ballroom floor. There was no need for Q’An, or her servants, to find them and glue them back on, for naturally she never wore the same ball gown twice. Just as there had never really been any need for my mother to sit around in the corner or by the window and do her own sewing.

My own favorite rhinestone colors were ruby, translucent, and jet black.

Meanwhile Q’An had a fabulous mirror, flattering like a gay ballroom teacher just before he is about to sell you an expensive program. She would admire herself in front of her mirror and chant to it:

“Mirror, mirror on the wall,

who’s the most beautiful of all?”

The mirror always said, “You are, Q’An.” I only got to see her do this a few times, because she really didn’t like to have me hang around her all that much, although I loved to watch her. She was so graceful. The few times I did watch her with her mirror, she’d have this gorgeous smile on her face. I loved that smile. It was the warmest and fuzziest smile you can imagine, warmer and gentler than any smile I ever saw her give another human being. Pure bliss.

I didn’t know any of this then, of course, but you can well imagine that, with all her beauty and her status as the new queen, she had a lot to lose. Having been diddled by my Daddy while my real mother was still alive, she now experienced two things at the same time. Triumph. And fear, which is probably the hallmark of all competition. Unlike a ballroom dancer, she couldn’t rely on practice and expertise or talent to further her cause. No, she had only her beauty, which was neither earned, nor deserved, and she couldn’t actively use it to compete at all. All she could do was eliminate any and all potential competition.

In the oldest tales they claim that she was just plain vain. Well, from what I learned by lying around here in my glass confinement is that no woman is really just plain vain. We all typically end up preening for our dinner one way or another. Unless of course we’re particularly good at sewing or doing hair, in which case we can possibly earn our keep by helping someone else preen for her dinner. I can’t really see much advantage in that either.

Well, for Q’An a fate of sewing or doing other people’s hair would definitely not have been appealing. She would probably have said, “No way,” which happened to be one of her favorite expressions. But it’s never that clear cut either, because she could well have changed her mind. It’s amazing how quickly you can change your tune when you fall on hard times. Believe me, I know. I would never have dreamt I would one day be doing dishes for dwarfs.

For a good while things were okay at the castle. I grew up playing with lost rhinestones and pieces of scrap velvet, and I ardently admired Q’An. I do want to mention that playing with rhinestones was not exactly my life’s ambition, but there wasn’t much else to do, and I had to play with something. As most children are, I was bored to tears by having nothing to do except devise sparkling ways of entertaining myself.

Naturally I also learned a lot by watching Q’An. How to lift up my ribcage to good effect, how to let my head float on my neck just so. I never cared to imitate her manners, though. For one thing, she complained too much, and she accused too much. Everything was always someone else’s fault. Everybody was always ruining her stuff, from handkerchiefs to vegetables served and tea water not caught at the precisely correct moment to make her tea palatable. But I did learn to imitate her way of physically carrying herself through the world, head held high, the distance between ears and shoulders as wide as possible, shoulders back, and moving through any space as though she owned it. I’ve never worn a crown in my hair, not yet anyway, unless you count wearing little circlets of daisies, buttercups, and cornflowers. But one day I will no doubt wear a real crown. If I ever get out of this coffin, that is.

There are no guarantees, especially if you’re not quite sure if this experience is in fact life. Or is it death instead? Or is it simply being on hold, stalled in some potentially magnificent development?

When I was seven years old, the tragedy happened. Q’An stepped in front of her mirror and her mirror told her faithfully,

“You’re very beautiful, that’s true,

but Snow White is now more beautiful than you.”

I ask you, how could I not be? I never had any worries, never anything to complain about. Unless I was dreadfully bored, I was enthusiastic about almost everything in life. I welcomed whatever came my way, rhinestones, hamsters, butterflies—I loved them all. I was happy in a way she had long forgotten how to be, if she had ever known such sunny happiness in the first place.

The mirror’s judgment was unacceptable to her, of course. Not that she suspected Daddy of any leanings toward incest. After all, she was then still practically a child herself and could take care of all his needs, whatever they might turn out to be. But in a life-long practice of competing, sometimes the goal of the competition gets lost in the process, and then suddenly competition itself becomes the goal. It’s like politicians vying for power until at some point nobody even thinks to ask anymore: So then, when you have all that coveted power, what will you do with it? That’s how it was with Q’An and beauty. She needed to be the most beautiful. She needed to be the best. She needed to be every superlative possible, without ever asking why and what for. And so my own developing beauty was definitely a threat to her pie. She couldn’t possibly eat the whole pie all by herself, but she would be damned before she was going to share a piece of it. After all, she might have use for dried-out pie crumbs in some nebulous future.

She decided to get rid of me, so that I would not ever threaten her peace of mind—and her piece of the pie—again.

At first she couldn’t conceive of doing away with me herself. Like a nature lover faced with the hygienic necessity of killing a mouse in a small baby’s bedroom, it just didn’t appeal to her.

Let me jump ahead to a later time here. Time floats for me in this strange oneness of being on hold in my glass coffin.

I can understand her, you see. After all, among other things, Daddy definitely required her to be his pretty trophy, his arm candy that earned him the admiration of his fellow men for having snagged her. Which isn’t too far afield from this prince of mine. He, too, fell in love with me while I was preserved in glass, where nothing ever changes and I remain an adorable and possibly adoring child. The ultimate question is, will my prince be content once I revive and become real? Or will he regret then that I haven’t remained frozen in convenient and unforgettable immobility? Will he be able to live with the reality of me being something besides a cherished trophy?

I hope he stumbles. Or if not he, then one of his servants, please God.

I’ve been known to sing, “One day my prince will come,” but I think perhaps the truer lyrics would be, “One day my prince will stumble.” That is my wish.

I hope the glass breaks, the poisoned apple falls out of my mouth, and I will have a chance to live again.

I know it’s risky. I don’t even know what life is like for a woman. No one has taught me much. Do I sit in the corner by the window like my mother and sew? Or do I strut around in party dresses like Q’An and say yes and amen to everything that Daddy might require?

Then again, a man, no matter how princely he might be, probably doesn’t know what life with a woman entails either. No one teaches men what to expect any more than they teach women. Let’s hope for the best. Oh, come on, stumble already. Stumble, my love, so that this prison shatters. For life is better than death.

But back to the story now. The hunter was the next to come on the scene.

I was quietly playing in the garden, the way I had been taught. Be seen at most; never be heard. Best not to be in evidence at all.

I was playing with the roses. My favorite game was counting their heads, their blossoms, rather, but in my game the blossoms became heads of people. I played an elaborate elimination game with them. I counted off blossom after blossom and eliminated ones with a certain number, and the very last rose left would be my special friend and protector for that day, or for that hour if I was particularly bored and felt like playing again. At least all those numbers that I had to count and keep track off kept my brain busy.

One of Q’An’s hunters suddenly stood next to me. I never saw or heard him until his shadow fell over the roses.

“Come,” he said. “We’re going on an adventure in the forest.”

I was a little frightened of him. For one thing he was so big; or else I was just very small compared to him. He was meaty, a bit like the older Marlon Brando. For another thing, I’d never been on an adventure in the forest before, especially not with a man. He smelled funny, too, like old butter, and also a little like dog, and I’d always been afraid of dogs anyway, especially their teeth.

I went along, because I always did what I was told to do. Generally I didn’t have much choice in the matter, so I just did it out of habit.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Into the forest.”

“How far?”

“Deeper.”

Than what? But he didn’t seem to be in the mood for conversation. So I started signing. La-la-la-la.

It was beautiful in the forest. Some chickadees were singing. Deet-deet. Deet-deet. We walked for a very long time.

I always walked a step or so behind him. That wasn’t because I couldn’t keep up with him, but more because he obviously didn’t want to talk, so I didn’t. With most other adults I would have reached for one of their hands, which oftentimes they seemed to like also, and it usually made me feel good and safe.

But he wasn’t that kind of an adult. He was like the one thing that was completely out of place in this forest, this green magic world with sun-drenched trees and light trembling in the wind like whispers.

Suddenly he turned around.

“Come here,” he said. He held a large spotty knife in his right hand. He rubbed it on his leather apron as though to clean it. I stepped back.

“Don’t hurt me,” I whimpered. He lifted his knife. “Don’t kill me,” I begged, even before I quite realized consciously what he was planning to do.

“I have to,” he said. “It’s what she wants. She’s the boss. I have to obey.”

“Why?” I asked. Then I fell on my knees, preparing to seriously beg. It had worked for me on the few occasions when I had fallen on my knees in front of Q’An. Maybe it would with her henchman as well. He looked uncomfortable; his face was still like a poker player’s, ruddy, fleshy, and sullen. His eyes did not meet mine.

“Please let me live,” I begged. I believed that I had the power to stop him. Nobody would kill a pretty little girl like me, would they? “I’ll go away,” I said. “I promise you, I’ll go far away.”

A boar came crashing through the underbrush toward us, grunting, and the hunter threw his knife at the running, snuffling shape in a skilled arc. The boar squealed, went silent, squealed once more, a long, high sound of complaint. Then the beast gave a few muffled grunts and its massive shape shuddered. Finally it lay still on the ground.

“Run,” the hunter yelled at me.

I stood frozen in panic.

“Run!” he bellowed.

So I ran. And I never looked back.

As I ran and stumbled over roots and scratched my hands on brambles and scraped my knees on knobby wood to catch myself from falling, I imagined him cutting open the boar and taking out its liver and its lungs as proof of my demise. My stepmom had been very specific in that regard.

I imagined him arriving back in the castle, all bloody, handing over the two tokens of my death. I imagined Q’An being a little surprised that he was not greener in the face, and she probably immediately earmarked him for future difficult assignments, as he seemed to be able to move swiftly and untouched by fastidious emotion. But it never came to that, for he left her employ that same day. Nobody ever got to ask him any questions or give him further assignments. Nor could Q’An take revenge on him once she discovered that she had been deceived.

You bet I was frightened! I’m one, or was one, who was frightened to reach for matches in the dark in case a spider had settled on the match box. I was frightened to walk anywhere at night in the castle unless the whole place was lit up. With so many corners and shadows everywhere, a single candle was hardly ever enough for comfort. So suddenly I am here in this forest among all these crawling, cawing, hissing, chirping things—and the wind whipping small branches into my face. I lived because after a while you simply do. Berries, nuts, acorns. I figured if a squirrel could eat it, so could I. Fortunately it was fall.

Speaking of food, Q’An promptly had the lungs and liver boiled and salted—an interestingly plain way of having me prepared, compared with the more elaborate ways in which she was in the habit of having her other meals served. But this time, plain and simple was what she wanted. Then she sat down to eat my lungs and my liver. Or so she thought.

How fascinating she was. Even in her failure. A tragic figure, really.

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Pick Up by Michael Webb

July 23, 2010 1 comment

It was funny, I thought. I could actually go for a long time-15 minutes, maybe-and completely forget about it. It wasn’t until I had to reach in a certain way, or stretch backwards, or until my stomach growled, maybe, that I realized again who I was, and what I was, and what was happening to me. Those moments, those sudden spasms of forgetting where none of it had happened-were blissful, but brief.

I was driving to pick up my sister after soccer practice. I had the radio on, tuned to the hits station she liked. I really didn’t like it, but leaving it on that station was easier than fighting about it once she climbed in. I just let it play-the insipid tunes, the mindless chatter from the DJ-giving me background music for the movie of my life. Ever since my life blew up, raining down burning pieces of existence like the climax of a buddy cop film, simpler has been the goal for me.

It was a simple, stupid mistake. Not made out of sloppiness, really, or total self centeredness, just sort of a mixture of both-a mutual loss of control. I could blame him, rant and rave and curse my lot, but I was there, too. I could have insisted. And I didn’t. Blaming is pointless at this juncture, anyway. Someone on the radio was singing about how they think they are in love. Good for you, I think, turning the wheel to make a hard right turn, feeling the seat belt press against me. There’s my reminder, right on time-a routine, instinctive motion, that is suddenly less comfortable. .

Not that my mother fails to remind me of my status. I love my mother-who doesn’t love their mother, right?-but I really don’t need to be reminded. I know it was dumb, poorly timed, a burden on everyone-I understand it. Besides the routine tensions of living in a house with two other women-a notion that gets harder as my sister gets older-there is the insistence, by both of them, that I be constantly reminded that I messed up. I appreciate all that my mother does-really, I do, but still-it was an error, I get it. I felt a twinge-not a pain, just a lurch, sort of-to emphasize the point-somewhere in there.

I eased our van into line with other parents’ vehicles, waiting my turn to pick up my charge. I saw Angie at a distance, recognizing her easily among the ponytailed horde. Being an older sister, I have been picking her out of crowds for a long time. She was standing with two other girls, a taller one I knew and a shorter one I didn’t recognize. I wondered if they were talking about me, then discarded the thought almost as quickly. They have their own little trials to worry about-rumors and fears and scandals and the thousand little slings and arrows of girl life.

I felt a wave of sadness-I knew what troubles she had coming, generally speaking-not the exact source of drama, but the type would be the same-betrayals, breakups, boys-passions without reason causing heartache that feels eternal. I still wanted to protect her, as annoying as she often was, from this sort of hurt-from any sort of hurt. I knew it wasn’t possible.

She had guitar tomorrow, so I was going to see him. He wasn’t like anyone else I knew-he looked, but didn’t stare, he listened, without judging, he heard without my having to repeat. In a different world, with a different me-sure, I could see it happening. He wasn’t devastating, but he was nice enough looking, I supposed, and he was sweet and had really good taste in music. And despite what they thought, and despite what had happened, I was still a girl, and–

Just stop it, I ordered myself. Don’t even go down that road. You know you can’t. So stop. Don’t. You’re not doing that, period. You have too much on your plate. I pulled up to the curb, and, after a pause, Angela broke off from her friends and brought a pair of bags to the car door. I hit the button to unlock it, and she climbed in, shutting it behind her. I could smell the air change-mown grass and exhaust fumes and sweat.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” I answered.

“What’s for dinner,” she asked. It was a lot of work to prepare dinner and clean up, but someone had to do it-she was too young and Mom was too tired. I sighed quietly.

“Chicken, I think.” There was some chicken thawing, and I had about 11 minutes to come up with something to do with it. My feet ached with the thought of 60, or more, minutes standing in the kitchen.

“I’m sick of chicken.” She sounded pouty-tired and hormonal. I hated the sound, but I sympathized too.

“I am too,” I said quietly and pulled away from the school.

Love Reign O’Er Me by Michael Webb

July 21, 2010 2 comments
I looked out the window at the rain. I liked rain, actually-it is a silent signal from the universe-you may have planned to play ball, or drive to Denver, or walk the dog-but I’m going to do this to you. Deal with it. It makes people adjust. It feels like all I do is adjust to other people, so when I watch other people have to change, it makes me smile a little bit. Petty of me, I know.
The laptop was on my mattress, my paper pulled up and waiting for my attention. It needed rearranging, cross referencing, and hours of rewriting-but when I heard the rain start to murmur against my wall, I immediately opened the window to stare at it for a while. The room started to get cold, and I was tired. Tired of working for other people, scheduling for other people, putting my needs aside so that they can have their way. Again.
The radio was on the classic rock station, and I heard the tinkling piano and faint sound of dripping rainwater at the very beginning of “Love, Reign O’Er Me”. I always wondered whether this song would have been programmed to play since this morning, or if some clever DJ snuck it on there when he heard the rain pelting his own window. I knew which one it probably was, and which one I wanted it to be.
I had to admit, as stuck as I was, watching the rain and not doing my work, I was thinking of her, too. She was being rained on, too, at work, maybe, or at home, feuding with her sister, perhaps. She insisted I couldn’t love her, and all sorts of reasons laid out why it was impossible. If she had one of those big pads of cream colored paper, she would probably lay them out for me, in Sharpie, made into an outline. I knew what they were-we had been over them, together and separately.
It was romantic, dashing even, to declare that I didn’t care about them, that I wanted her beside me on this tiny mattress, complaining about being cold from the wind and needling me about getting back to my work. She’d tell me that someone needed to be the responsible one and get their degree. And she’d be right.
But I had to wait her out, sit here and stare at the rain and wait for her to understand that I wasn’t going to run away or give up or bail out or skip out on her, that I was going to stick and keep sticking. That even though my writing was going nowhere, teaching guitar earned a pittance, and my degree seemed to recede away from me at light speed, I couldn’t breathe well when she wasn’t in the room. I couldn’t force her, or trick her, or make her come to the conclusion before she was good and ready. I loved and hated that.
I stared at the rain, and wished for the time to go by faster.

French Kiss by Michelle Elvy

July 20, 2010 6 comments

(Written a few days ago for 52|250’s Union of Opposites challenge, snatched up by SLEEP.SNORT.FUCK. Can’t help myself; this belongs here at VOICES, too. )

The date began badly. First, she turned up her nose at my suggestion of sushi: “Ew! I want real food!” So we found ourselves at a picnic table eating hamburgers and fries, hers dipped in a large pile of blubbery mayo.

Back in the car, she switched the radio from Waits to Madonna. I thought about kicking her out right then.

But I’m a gentleman, so I suggested wine at my place (she was French, after all), but she said, “No, that’s boring,” and next thing I know we’re down by the lake drinking Jaegermeister. Jaegermeister, for chrissakes! Haven’t drunk that stuff since college. I managed not to puke this time, even when she said, “I’m going to fuck you now, oui?” What could I say? I was powerless in her hands, her mouth, her cunt. She scared the hell out of me, from her rock-hard nipples to her abundant thighs to her curious tongue. I envisioned news flashes next day: Culture Clash: Carniverous Frenchie Fucks Shy Biology Teacher Dead. She was all energy, grinning and grinding, sound and sexual fury. I ached for days, especially where my knee wedged into the dashboard. How she fit all those ways I never did figure.

I kept her number for a long time. “Call me,” she said as she slipped the paper into my jeans pocket. Not a question, more a demand. I wanted to, I really did.

Hey! Where? Georgie Girl! by Walter Bjorkman

July 14, 2010 5 comments

 

Hey! Where? Georgie Girl!

The Decade of Myth didn’t start
with the year six-oh
nor did it stop with the one
ending in six-nine
It started in sixty-three
with the death of Young John the Debaucher
and ended in seventy-four,
with Sir Dickie the Trickie’s departure
we all got that straight? – solid, man!

    

[In The Beginning And In The End]

I met the Fair Maiden Georgie Girl
on an Ivoryton Sixty-Nine summer night
my Boys of Summer campin’ cross the lake
as were your hippie-chicks

    

[Original Boys of Summer, Fantasy Hippie Chicks]

Welfare and rich, mixin’ & matchin’
in each other’s sleeping bags
thirteen year old Elke Sommer’s kid shackin’
up with the Gypsy Queen’s daughter
so we figured why not us too

    

[Elke Sommer, one of my kid’s Mom, Gypsy Queen, one of yours]

While my tongue was in your nethers
on that misty-meadowed night
and yours on my fair lance
I felt another on my foot
thought “How can she do that?”
I had to give a glance

In the heat of a passion
I look back and see
that a goat of the pastures
decided to make the scene

[Three’s a Crowd on My Cloud]

“Man, you know what yew got there, compadre?”
said old Ed the cook – “just one word, man
you’ll understand, she goes to the same
school as Jackie O’s kid!”

    

[Did Caroline Ever Eat Camp Slop?]

Your name was Georgette, your brother’s Carroll
I should’a got the clue
but we talked not of backgrounds
we just wanted to screw

That mescalined night in the pond
skinny-dippin with three others
in front of the Ivoryton post office
doin’ it in the road
an early train-spotting with cars
none came, we did

                            
[Ivoryton Post Office, No Worry, it was after midnight]

Man – we got two days off – where we gonna’ go?
it’s the weekend of a gig on Yasgur’s Farm –
but we had not enough time for the show

Off instead to my poor man’s heaven
on the other side of the LI Sound
meeting those children of god
all going the other way

Starry, Starry Night
we slept, talked and did the nasty
where I, in innocence once
built a raft of driftwood
to take me twenty miles across
to the shore from which we ferried
escaping my Father’s demise

    

[Yasgur’s Farm and Sound Beach
We were only two at the beach, wonder how many made it to the farm?]

“Wake up! Wake up!”
roust the commie, preppie, philosopher, hippie and jock
I had one of each sort in my troop
Neil the Man’s about to take his midnight walk!
we herded them into the mess tent to see
the moon violated by mankind’s knee

    

[It Takes All Kinds watching Armstrong]

Back in the City, you One East End Ave
me from across the Gowanus
riding the subway to the stars
wondering what I was doin’

your nanny plopped with a death thud
to the floor above us
in your private-elevator duplex
as we were loving in full window view
of the 59th Street Bridge – that wasn’t groovy

    

[The Gowanus – Bridge Over Dirty Waters, 59th St Bridge – Feelin’ Groovy]

You off to bucolic Pine Manor in Brookline
with your mama’s Standard Oil money
me back to CCNY turmoil
in Harlem on my night cabbie’s pay
visits on weekends, further apart –
we did start to grow away

    
[Protected in Brookline, Protesting in Harlem]

One last stab – I your debutante escort
at your coming out debut
for the Grosvenor Ball in the Plaza
you were both loathe and loving to attend
four months after you first came with a man
or rather this boy from across the facts

Dine with a Kennedy here, a Lindsay there
under a blanket in a horse carraige ride
in Central Park, thereafter
you sneak into my room
for our last bedding

                                    

[The Poor Got Richer, if just for a day]

Remember back when we got kicked out
of that snooty Boston Common’s hotel
for me refusing to wear a tie?
you laughed all the way with me
to the cheap shack up the block

Time driftwooded on, we left each other
my only contact with your world
became the green of the bluebloods
as I ferried them around the town


We met again in seventy-four on Mass Ave
just up from the Coop
me with my Nancy girl, you with
a Japanese artist, your Yoko
spurning your parent’s wealth
he hair down to his calves

Maybe we had an effect on each other,
maybe the Sixties mattered
or maybe we were all just
Fools on the Hill

                               

Twins by Michelle Elvy

July 8, 2010 3 comments

When we turned 50, my twin sister and I inherited money from an uncle. It was a modest amount, enough for me to enroll in a night course at the local college and to buy a new pair of glasses, not the $20 frames at JC Penney but an obscenely expensive designer pair which my made me feel sexy and smart, and which my boyfriend told me to keep on when we made wild rodeo love that night.

Some weeks later, my sister called. “You gotta come visit, see what I purchased with the help of Uncle Robbie’s money!” She sounded excited, so I drove across the state line the following weekend. I rang the bell and adjusted my new glasses, sure she’d notice them right away. She threw open the door with her characteristic enthusiasm and greeted me with a new set of D’s, maybe even Double-D’s. I hugged her, mindful not to squish her new acquisitions, and followed her in, my mind responding in overdrive: Good Lord, Patricia, what have you done? I am reading Foucault, have a copy of Discpline and Punish right here in my bag. Wanna read it? No, of course you don’t. I wonder if my $300 left over would get me a downpayment on a set of those. I couldn’t afford D’s of course (and they are ridiculous), but C’s might be quite sensible…

“You have new glasses!” Patricia interrupted.

“The better to see you with,” I replied.

Shrink Session by Linda Simoni-Wastila

July 7, 2010 5 comments

Damn the T. Here I am, stuck in a stalled train teetering over the Charles, barely breathing. People pack the car, suits and students wedged in tight near doors, hanging from poles. Faces grim, no one talks; I bet they’re obsessing about the billions of gallons of cold, murky water below. I know I am.

A cross-wind rocks the train. Lights from the Boston side shimmy on the pitch water. Late again for my shrink session. What an ungodly waste of time.  I slam the textbook, shove it into my backpack and grope for my MP3 player. Radiohead loaded, I riffle though the week’s mail: Poets and Writers, Neuroscience, phone bill, AmEx, and a green envelope from the Harvard University Office of the Bursar.

Damn.

I yank out the earplugs, snatch my cell. A ring. Good, at least there’s a signal, but then the answering service beeps. I sigh into the phone.

“Moth-er. It’s me. Ben.” Pick up, pick up. She doesn’t. “Uh, I got another tuition bill. It’s the third notice. Did you guys pay it? It’s like, uh, three months late. They’re gonna kick me out if it isn’t paid in two weeks.” Another pause. “Call me. Tonight? Please?”

Knees jittering, my damp palms rub my jeans. It’s so hot, so humid, all this carbon dioxide exhaled by my fellow prisoners steams up the windows. I rub a circle on the glass. Distorted lights reflect on the pitch black river. The air bears down. My throat constricts. Jesus, let me out. Let me out. I shut my eyes and breathe.

The car lurches. Passengers grab rungs, smiling and chattering in relief. The train slides into Kendall Square. The door eases open, chilled air assails me. I bolt up the stairs into the murky evening.

Low lying clouds spit icy flakes. By the time I arrive at Bruce’s office, sweat streams in a rivulet down my back. My heart hammers in my ears. I burst into the room and blink in the fluorescent blaze.

“You’re late,” Bruce says, not looking up.

“The frigging T broke down.” I yank out my water bottle, then tug off my damp sweater. “Jesus, it’s a sauna in here.”

Bruce’s eyes follow me pacing the room like a caged rat. He closes the door, flicks off the overheads. I sling myself onto the oxblood couch, worn shiny from time and distress.

“So,” he says. Irritation lines his voice. “How’re classes?”

“Tough,” I say. “My schedule’s crazy.”

“What’s tough?” he says.

“Just new areas for me, I guess.”

“What areas?” He removes his glasses, rubs them with a small cloth.

“Mental health epidemiology and I know nothing about epidemiology, I can barely spell the word.” I gulp from my water bottle. “Let’s see, there’s a class on clinical trials, it’s excellent but I have to bone up on stats, too. Whew. And, uh, one last core biology class, no problem there, and an upper level neuro class, also no problem, but both have labs and small group assignments that eat up tons of time. And creative writing on Friday mornings, memoir this semester, but not for credit. And, of course, there’s that honors thesis.”

“You do sound busy.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I say.

“And your social life?” he asks.

I can’t corral my grin. “Well yeah, now that you ask, there’s this girl. Phoebe. Beautiful name, huh? Phee-bee. As in one of the original Titans, the one who consorted with her brother Coeus. Remember? Anyway, she’s a med student, in my neurobiology class – and we’re in the same study group! She’s gorgeous, simply gorgeous, with these amazing hazel-green eyes. And hair, you should see, like liquid gold, and–”

“You really like her,” He smiles.

“Ah, yes. Yes I do.” I bounce on the leather, instantly back in a good mood. “I can’t stop thinking about her. She’s an artist, works with clay. And quiet, kind of reserved. But a nice person. A good person.” At least I hope so. I chalk up her coolness to start-of-the-semester nerves – I get that way, too. “She’s different. Oh, and smart – did I tell you she’s in med school?”

“An older woman. And the verdict?”

“Too early to say, she’s pretty focused on school. Very serious,” I say.

“Well, good luck.” Bruce shuffles papers.

“Thanks.” I drain the bottle. “I’ll need it.”

“How are you otherwise?” he asks. “I was concerned about you after our last session.”

My legs stop jiggling. “Eh. I got over it. Took the train home to New York, found Pops alone in the study smashed on Scotch, snuck up behind and garroted him.”

His eyes grow wide. He jots in his notebook.

“Jesus. I’m joking.” My laugh sounds brittle. “I fantasize about him dying, though.”

“As in you murdering him?”

“More like he fries in a plane crash or croaks from some painful cancer,” I say. “I don’t think I have it in me to kill anyone, even him.”

“That’s reassuring.” The pencil scratches for what seems a long time. I pick at a cuticle. “Really, though, how did you process our last session?”

“Wrote some poems,” I say.

“May I see them?” He looks at me expectantly.

I close my eyes. “Poems take time.”

“There is nothing pretty or poetic about abuse.”

“Look,” I say. “The way I write is never direct. If you’re obvious, the poem isn’t interesting to read.”