Friday, December 25, 2009


embonpoint \ahn-bohn-PWAN\ , noun;
Plumpness of person; stoutness.

A teapot sits on a stove, blue
flames licking at its bottom,
incessant, contained, flickering.

Bubbling can be heard, a low
whine that will soon turn to screaming -
a low, round mug waits,
set on the countertop,

A man waits with it, watches
from a stool, his butt careening
off the sides, spilling even,

He waits, head on hand, wrist to elbow,
bone angling into the flesh above his wide knee, he watches
the pot get hotter.

There is an ache in his throat that grows,
crawls with fits of coughing and cackling
hacking sounds that he has come to keeping down

With jaws shut and honey in a cup that waits
with the man, staring as the steam jumps and shoots
toward the low ceiling -

The legs of the stool snap.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


fecund\FEE-kuhnd; FEK-uhnd\, adjective:

1. Capable of producing offspring or vegetation; fruitful; prolific.
2. Intellectually productive or inventive.

It's nighttime now. They are both asleep. Another thing that they are that I am not. I don't think I have slept since my body became mine again, since the hospital. I slept the day they let me out, the day we got back. He said that he would take the baby and that I should rest. So I went to the bed and I rested. I looked at him and I thanked him and I kissed them both on the cheek. I had enough love for them to do that, didn't I? And then I walked up the stairs, ran my hand along the banister, and crawled into bed. I fell asleep almost immediately.
The pillowcase was cool, a blessing on my feverish skin, my throbbing brain. The sheets were a mess and I could almost find the same spot my body had been in before. Before when I could almost pretend that I was still only me. Still just a woman. Still just a wife. The time before that strange sensation came. Before I got myself up for what I assumed would be my nightly communion with the toilet bowl. Before I took a few steps and the fluid started to seep out and scurry down my legs. The time before the beginning of what I knew would be the end. Of me.
Now it is nighttime again. And I know I am no longer just me. I hear the sound of two other sets of lungs breathing. And when I hear that sound and feel their presence, another feeling comes to me. The feeling of my own breath escaping me as if the air were rushing to the sides of the room, as if there were only enough for the other two. That I have to sacrifice. Always sacrifice. And for a moment, I stop breathing at all. For a moment, I wonder if I will ever breathe again. And I wonder if I want to.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


depredation \dep-ruh-DAY-shun\, noun:
an act of plundering or despoiling; a raid.

"Argh!" "Arrrrrgh!!" "Aaaaaarrrrrggh!!!"

He stood in front of his mother's full length mirror in his pirate costume, practicing his "Aye matey"s and his "swash-buckle"ing. He swung his sword around and held it high in the air. His mother wasn't quite sure if pirates genuinely had swords, but it didn't really matter. She knew he just liked swinging it around. He liked drawing it out of its holster and thrusting it at walls and through doorways. Thankfully, no one yet had walked into harm's way and gotten the wind knocked out of them.

He hadn't approved of the carved pumpkin shaped candy holder. It didn't go with his pirate clothes. So she had fashioned something out of random fabric in her craft drawer. It almost looked like a hobo traveling pack to her, but it had been boy-approved. She would attach it to the sash tied around his waist. He didn't want it to look like a candy bag. Pirates didn't carry around candy purses. They captured gold! Booty! Argh!

In keeping with the theme, she would wear a raggedy old dress and personify the damsel in distress. She would let him threaten her with walking the plank and she would shriek in fear when he raised his weapon. She would refrain from hugging him too much, from telling him not to eat so many Sugar Daddies. In their own candy jar for the kids who would knock at their door, there were mounds upon mounds of chocolate gold coins.

The boy wondered what kind of a pirate would give away his treasure, but he would say nothing to his mother. It was obvious she just didn't get it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


stentorian\sten-TOR-ee-uhn\ , adjective;
1. Extremely loud.

My eyes seem dim, but all the sounds around me are very loud and present.
This is almost like those dreams I have where I can't see and all the while I am straining to open my eyes wider and wider and make the things around me go from static to clear picture. It's hard and it turns out it is also impossible. I can't see. And around me there is chaos. Someone is out to find me. Someone dangerous. Someone who I fear might want to harm me. Someone I would have to see to run from, to protect myself from. Someone who could very easily take me, grab me, nab me. Someone I would not be able to stop.
I take my fingertips and I try to pry my eyelids open but I know it won't help. It is something at the center of my eye; something behind my eye that I cannot get to that is dulling everything. It is like a white noise. I can feel it. I can feel it like my breath. Like my breath when it is caught. When I can't take in air. When I can't complete an inhale; and I panic then too. But panicking never helps. So strange how that is our body's reaction, when it is the opposite of what it needs. How about that, Darwin? How does that make sense?
Noises. Loud noises. Extremely loud noises. Not only in my ears but cascading over all of my skin. Ripples of sound, as if I am lying where water laps against a shore. Head first, it consumes my head but then continues to glide down and I feel it at the perimeters of my arms, then my chest, my stomach, and my head is underneath the whole time. Only when it reaches my toes and I am consumed, while my head feels close to exploding and I do not try to stop it, does the loud-sound-water start to recede until I am left only wet and waiting, knowing it will return again shortly to start all over. This isn't pleasant. If the noise is the water, then the water is freezing. Bone-chilling. Cultivating fear to grow.
Blindness and sound. Being chased. Stumbling. Drowning under ice-cold water. These are my dreams.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


galumph\guh-LUHM(P)F\ , intransitive verb:
1. To move in a clumsy manner or with a heavy tread.

The truck rocked back and forth as we went over another deep pothole, and Gary only mildly swerved to miss it. It felt almost simultaneous as I squooshed and scraped my shoulder against the door handle and window, as my butt left the seat, the skin of my thighs feeling as if they were being ripped from the faux-leather seats; it was so hot, they wanted to stay stuck to the vinyl.
"What the hell, Gary. Jeez," I'd say, as I set myself right again, trying not to recreate that peeling feeling between my legs and the seat. I hated those seats. Too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, but Gary just loved them. He thought the whole vehicle was top notch. It was vintage Chevrolet and red and in just about mint condition. Only the bench-style seat needed to be reupholstered and leave it to Gary to pick the ugliest, banana-yellowist, most uncomfortable fabric ever.
"Oh calm down now over there. Quit your fussin'. You're the one that asked for the ride, so I don't wanna hear it."

That was true. I did ask. I was working on getting my permit, but couldn't get anyone to agree to teach me. I guess I asked too many questions. He was wrong about one thing though. I hadn't asked for a ride. I had asked for a lesson, and so I said as much:
"I thought I was going to be drivin', not ridin'."
"I know. I know. I know. But what or who made you think that I would let you drive Julianne?"
"Julianne? Julianne! You named your truck after your ex-girlfriend? Are you crazy?! Oh my god, you are crazy. I see it now. I really and truly see it...let me out of this vehicle..." I make sure the door is locked and then I start pulling at the handle, like I'm trying to escape, as we're speeding down the road. I wasn't laughing for long before Gary slams on the breaks and swerves to the side of the road, bringing us to an abrupt stopped position and again my upper body flies dangerously close to the windshield. I notice outside the windows the clouds of upset dust and dirt swirling and aiming to settle back down to the earth. I'm stilling bracing myself, hands against the glove box.
"Is this how you think you're going to get me to let you drive my truck??" Gary howls.
I'm still recovering from the sudden shift in movement, so I don't answer him right away.
"Huh, Gracie? Is that what you're thinking? Because pissing me off is going to get you nothing of what you want. I'll tell you that."
He's sitting facing me now with his left arm slung over the steering wheel; his right knee bent at an acute angle and propped up on the seat, pointing in my direction. Even though his words are tough, his tone gets softer as he says the last few words.
I look up over at him and say, "Well it got you to pull over, didn't it? Now come on. Let's switch seats, huh?"
He just looks at me and starts to laugh, a deep chuckle. He slaps the back of the seat about halfway between our bodies. I jump a little, but I'm not scared. Laughing means I'm about to get what I want.
"Come on, Gare. Just let me try. Yeah?"
He slaps the seat again in the same spot.
"Well goshdarnit Gracie. Why didn't you just ask nicely in the first place? Come on. Crawl over." He puts his right foot back on the truck floor, clicks open the door and slides out all in three quick movements. As I slide over, the door knocks shut and I can barely believe it worked. I'm settling, nervously, into the seat curiously setting my feet on the pedals and fingering all the bells and whistles when Gary plops himself down on the passenger side. I feel like I'm in heaven, but I have this feeling that Gary, my guide, is about to show me that heaven ain't all it's cracked up to be.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


scuttlebutt\SKUHT-l-buht\ , noun:
1. A drinking fountain on a ship.
2. A cask on a ship that contains the day's supply of drinking water.
3. Informal. Gossip; rumor.

The name of my pet bug. Only I could see him and he followed me around everywhere. It's a good thing he was invisible, because if my mom had seen all the places he was getting up into she literally would have killed him. Mom was deathly afraid of bugs. She hated black flies, brown spiders and even little red ladybeetles with the little black spots on them. She either had a spatula in her hand or a fly-swatter, and she'd use them in just about the same way. Flipping burgers and puncturing eggs with the same quick movements as she would smash a housefly. Little did she know that Scuttlebutt was up on the counter or sitting in the sink or right in the middle of the kitchen table, watching her and wincing with every swat, looking at me with wide eyes and shivering. He never did get used to her viscous ways toward the tiny things that always scrambled to get out of her way.
In general I tried to avoid the kitchen for this reason - to protect Scuttlebutt. I didn't like to see him distressed and since he followed me everywhere I thought it might be cruel to force him to watch his kindred being shot down one after the other. Of course Scuttlebutt was different from any other bug I had ever seen or found squished under a napkin. He was a color that was a bunch of colors in one; he could blend in with anything. And I don't mean like a was almost as if he was every color all at once and he just became more solid of a color when he wanted to blend in with what was around him, when he wanted to hide. Like when my mom was talking directly to me, he would just disappear, become part of the sofa or something like that. And he was big. His shell came up to my knees when I stood up and if I laid down it was possible to hug him like a long pillow because he was soft too. Not squooshy or fuzzy but huggable, if you know what I mean. Anyway, he was my friend and so I kept him away from mom. I knew she didn't have a swatter big enough to pop him, and it wasn't like she could see him, but I wasn't going to risk it. Scuttlebutt was the only friend I had.
You'd think it would have bothered me to have a big bug following me around all the time, but it really didn't seem like he had anything else to do and I certainly didn't mind the company. I was 5 years old and had already given up on the idea that mom and dad might one day bring home a brother for me to play with and by that point I had already learned you couldn't play fun games with a baby. Couldn't build forts with them or climb trees or conduct contests to see who can do stuff faster or better or longer. Not that I did any of that stuff with Scuttlebutt. That just would have been weird. And mean. He just didn't have the legs for any of it. Mostly he just watched me do stuff on my own. I think he just knew that it was nice to have somebody else around, someone to talk to. When it's only you most of the time you start making up things to do and eventually I started to experiment with building things. I'd take bits of recycling and old newspapers and odd electronic parts that mom or dad were getting rid of and collect them in a heap under my bed. Piece by piece I would take this or that and see how I could stack it or fit it or glue it together to make something else. Things without an obvious purpose or logic about them, but that made me glad when I looked at them. Scuttlebutt liked them too. Of course I think part of the reason he liked them is because a lot of them would end up looking like him. Well, variations of him. Metallic bugs. Tiny ones. Medium ones. And Scuttlebutt-size ones. Those were the ones we both liked the best. I called them Scuttlebutt Sculptures. But then we'd always have to try to hide them somehow, or even take them apart and put them back together again later, because mom was always trying to throw them out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


milieu \meel-YUH; meel-YOO\ , noun:
1. Environment; setting.

Milieu. Million. A million places to be. A million people to be. Milieu.
Will you walk with me? Will you go with me to these places? A hand to hold. A body to walk with. Footfalls. I see us walking along a river. Cobblestones under our feet. The ground is uneven. I cling to your fingers and palm. You clutch mine. Reassure me with a squeeze that you are not letting go. My shoes are slippery. I do not trust them. You can see this in my face. The way I look to you, expectant, but smiling. Worried, but not worried. It has just finished raining. Or it is still raining. There is a faint mist, a drizzle. For some reason in my vision I am imagining Paris. The Eiffel Tower in the distance. Crowds at our left side. A ferris wheel? A river to our right. My hair is brown - or should I say "brunette"? That is much prettier. I do not look like me. My skin is olive and very smooth. I look good in winter colors. My hair is not curly, just wavy, and only half pulled back. That is not me. And the man. The man I was only just recently imagining was holding my hand - I cannot make out his face. Just that he is handsome. And he is smiling. He is French. He can only barely speak American. Ah so that is why the two characters smile at each other so much. They cannot speak. Neither can ruin the moment. Perhaps they are laughing at that too. It is funny in a way to think that speaking could ruin a moment. Well actually that is not so funny. It is true. Oh to not be able to speak - no - to not have to speak in order to communicate. How lovely that must be. I still see their faces close up in my vision. Their eyes sparkle, reflect the rippling water. A silvery glow. The air is crisp but gentle. No rough wind. The sky is gray but it is not gloomy. It simply offers a quiet backdrop. It is full. Full of something. Rain clouds share. It is not raining. It is sprinkling. The sound all around is splashing and gently falling droplets. And laughter. Yes, these two continue to laugh. Oh vacation. Where do these women meet these men? Does it matter that this probably will not last? Will she compare all American men she meets from now on to this French man that only needed to smile at her and squeeze her hand to make her feel secure and right? It is strange but in her dreams of love there was always sunshine and rays of heat. But even on this cloudy day in Paris she feels that. Or no she feels that this is almost better. Better than she could have imagined it before.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


senescent \si-NES-uhnt\adjective:
Growing old; aging.

After 53 years, she couldn't sleep in the middle of the bed. She still kept to her side. And in the mornings, after she got herself up, slipped her feet into slippers, and shuffled to the kitchen, it was difficult for her not to set the table for two. Some mornings she didn't have the energy to resist, and to set a spot for him would be eerily comforting - even to fill his coffee cup, and make it just the way he liked it. Even though she had almost always drank it black, she had started adding cream and sugar, because of course the flavor was of him, his sweetness. She would face his empty seat, stare at the steam raising from his mug, lost in memory and sighing.
Moving on took energy, energy that was harder to summon up at her age, energy she hadn't thought to save up a reserve of. She had always naively thought they would go together. That they would drift into sleep one night, holding hands, and just neither of them wake up. She was only half-way right.
And now she didn't know what to do, except continue to make his favorite meals. She had begun the strange habit of wearing his clothes to bed: a white t-shirt, a pair of boxers. Something she had never done while he was alive, but now it seemed like the only right thing to do. It meant she could still do his laundry, smell his clean shirts, feel the cotton of his underwear rub against her skin in the night, as she used to when he lied beside her. It meant still having to fold them and place them in his dresser drawer. Sometimes she might even lay out slacks and blouse and tie, arrange them on the bed, as if on a flat person. Lay next to it, play with the collar of the shirt, the buttons. After a few minutes, she would feel silly and put it all away - again the folding, the careful placement back onto hangers, the pretending that he'd need these things again.


From Deaf Republic: 16
by Ilya Kaminsky

Yet I am. I exists. I has
a body,
When I see

my wife's slender boyish legs
the roof
of my mouth goes dry.

She takes my toe
in her mouth.
Bites lightly.

How do we live on earth, Mosquito?
If I could hear

you what would you say?
Your answer, Mosquito!

Above all, beware
of sadness

on earth we can do
- can't we? -

what we want.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


temerity \tuh-MER-uh-tee\, noun:
Unreasonable or foolhardy contempt of danger; rashness.

Chasing pavement, you called it. Middle of the night, keeping your footfalls in between the yellow lines. Faster and faster; sometimes you closed your eyes. And I'd watch your hair streaking behind you. Listen to the sound of your sandals flapping, sometimes scraping bits of gravel. The lines used to glow under your feet, reflecting the moon that acted as a bulb over our heads.
Those nights were like Valium to me. Leaning against the rails of the bridge, the cool dampness of it slightly wetting my hands and the butt of my jeans, listening to the sound of the river rushing underneath, and you, slicing the air in two with your body and your laughter, throwing your arms into the sky and twirling once you'd reached the end where the bridge finally met with the firm road of the land again.
We'd see their beacons coming up over the hill before the headlights even appeared, and you would break your chase with the night and run to me, grab my hand, pull me off to the side, and almost down to the water. Your body would shake with energy and you'd hop up and down a little and squeeze my hand until the vehicle passed by ~ thuhrumpbump ~ onto the bridge, and then ~ thuhrumpbump ~back off of it. One more squeeze to my hand and you'd go back. Only now the energy would have changed for you and you would lie on your back in between the yellow lines and you'd call to me. And I'd lie down opposite you, our heads touching, and look at the stars.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


consternation \kon-ster-NEY-shuhn\, noun:
sudden dread or paralyzing terror

She hadn't slept in days. Afraid of her dreams. The back of her eyelids. The things she knew crept about when her eyes were closed. Mostly it was the night. She hadn't been afraid of the dark since the days she begged her mom to put a nightlight in the hallway. Hadn't even noticed when she grew out of the need for a small light outside her door. Somewhere along the way it wasn't important anymore. Until suddenly as a grown woman the night held something sinister for her again. Closing her eyes in bed now she immediately began to feel the hot tentacles of anxiety creep along the outlines of her arms and where the sheets grazed her skin. Soon her whole body would be like a pile of stone coals smoldering in the heat of an oven. And she'd shut her eyes tighter until speckles of light would form and collect like galaxies, spinning out into oblivion. Fearing the worst, she'd pop them open again, momentarily blinded by the brightness of the optical illusion that had formed. She'd blink and blink and blink until the darkness was whole again, and she could go back to the fear she was used to, the fear that had a name.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


pinchbeck \PINCH-bek\, adjective:
not genuine; fake

Looking at her face, I could tell right away that she thought I was serious. The funny thing was that I had been joking. Well, excuse me, let me make a correction. It was funny to me, not to her. Honestly, nothing much is ever very funny to her. Maybe that's why she lets me hang around: for the occasional sound of laughter. Even if it is at her expense. She doesn't mind. I swear that girl's head is always looking at the back of itself. Some people call it "daydreaming," but I disagree. If that's all someone does, wouldn't it just be their walking-talking life? No, Lucy isn't dreaming. She's thinking. And hard.

"Come on, now, Lucy. I was only kidding," I say.

But she doesn't answer. She just keeps walking and swinging a short stick that she picked up along the way, swinging it through the grass that reaches up to our knees, slowly back and forth in front of her as if she were chopping her way through a jungle. And so I follow on behind, keeping to her path, being careful not to step on the back of her heels with my long strides. I don't even try to hide my smile or my low chuckle, not when the sky's so shiny and the field's so green and her brown hair's swinging to and fro in her ponytail, smiling right back at me.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


bilk \bilk\, noun:
1. a trick; fraud; deceit
2. a cheat, swindler

The glass was in the center and I sat at one of the chairs, staring at it. You paced around me, making laps around and around me and the table. I was still young then. I picture the scene as if watching it on a television screen. My blond head of hair cropped short at the sides, the top just long enough to curl and flop. My arms rested at my sides. I can still feel how my hands were folded in my lap, slightly clammy, clenching and unclenching, the only part of my body that moved. My blue eyes rested in my unblemished face behind long, barely perceptible lashes, paying dutiful attention to the empty glass set in front of them, only raising themselves to glance at you quickly as you passed directly into their line of vision. But your own eyes never left my poised position. Still now as I picture this afternoon, I can feel the heat of your glare, my skin burning as if you'd laid a hand on me, the taut skin of your palm or the knobby bones of where your fingers met.
"Tell me what happened." The 't' of the first word out of your mouth held the sharp ping of a stone thrown, and I winced.
"You will tell me how this happened, Elliot." And you slammed the fleshy part of your fist onto the top of the table, causing even the cup to jump.
"Goddammit!" And you charged to some other part of the kitchen and came back to where I could see you, clenching the carton in your hand. You popped it open and poured quickly, angrily, and some of it got onto the tabletop. Then the chunks started to slip and slop, plop into the lake of off-white now filling the glass, causing more milk to splash out of the glass and onto the table.
It looked bad. It smelled bad. I resisted the urge to vomit.
And when the cup was almost filled to the brim, you said: "You will tell me what happened, Elliot, or I swear to GOD you are drinking this."
In my mind I can picture what I must have looked like, sitting so quietly while all of this was happening. I have to say it was one of my proudest moments. I looked at him, my big brother, feeling as much disgust for him as I did for the smell of that sour, stinking milk and his conniving girlfriend and her ugly, lying mouth, and I reached over, took the warm glass in my hand and chugged.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


acclaim \uh-KLEYM\, verb:
to welcome with loud approval; praise highly

(A claim. On you. On me.)

This is the second time I've gone to visit you, and I don't know if I can do it again. You stared out the window this time. Set in your wheelchair, frail and hunched, the gray shawl across your shoulders that Mama made. You were so still, I worried. The only assurance I had was the rise and fall of your shoulders. You wouldn't even look at me. I talked to you and you sighed. Your eyes never left the outdoors. I wonder if you were actually looking at anything, or just simply not looking at me.
Janet suggested I write you this letter. She can't understand, but rather than argue I've set myself down at this paper to do what she has said. She means well and I can't deny that this might be just what I need. If you decide to read it, that's up to you, but I hope you will. I hope you have gotten this far. Because what I came those times to tell you, what I had hoped to tell you, is that we were all proud of you. Yes, proud. But you have to understand that we couldn't express it. He's dead. He's dead now. A life is gone. But you are still here.
Please come home, ma. Please come home. The bed and his ghost are gone.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


froward \FROH-werd\, adjective:
not easily managed; contrary

I saw your mind as an orange today. The outer layer rough and tough and weather-worn but relatively easy to pull away - after a puncture. I stuck my fingernails through and I pulled it back bit by bit, turning the globe over in my hands, creating orange masses of islands and continents, which also eventually were torn away, leaving only the ocean of pasty whiteness, that unnamed substance. Even with the tough casing gone, I still couldn't get at the inside of it, but I could smell it, could feel it when I added pressure and squeezed just a little. But I didn't want to break it. I wanted to strip that skin off, get to the fruit inside. So I tenderly picked at unseen seams until they gave, and it felt like paper does when you rip it from side to side, along its grain - satisfying. I did this until all that was left was the tiniest membrane between me and the millions of tiny bubbles of juice that are held together in what we call an orange, just waiting to be bitten.


myopia \mahy-OH-pee-uh\, noun:
shortsightedness; lack of foresight

My opia. My open mouth. My aaaaah, ooooh.
You dipped low. You undertow. You make me go.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


tome \tohm\, noun: a large, often scholarly, book

Sitting alone with your books, at first all I can do is look at them. Stacks upon stacks upon stacks in the corners and lining the shelves and forming felled heaps on the floor, but organized into some sort of categorized set, I know. Mostly leather-bound, these are heavy books, their pages lined with gold feather. The room smells like one big book, and I am in it. I understand now how you could spend hours in here. Time stops. Words are seconds. Pages are minutes. A book in here is only a day - at least it was for you. For me a book would be a month, two months. I never had your dedication for it. I lived outside this room. This room of thick outsides and crispy insides. This room of texture and weight. One feels solid within its walls. Kept. Held. Important. I can feel you in this room. I touch these books, knowing you have also touched them, and I flip them open and flick the pages through my fingers and I pause at what you've written in the margins. I could spend the rest of my life finding and contemplating all the rows of text that you have spent yours underlining. I will run my hands over everything, stick my nose in the bindings, and steady each spine in my palms. I will find you here and I will settle in it, wanting nowhere else to go.

Monday, February 16, 2009


interminable \in-TUR-muh-nuh-buhl\, adjective:
so long as to seem endless; never stopping

Listening to the sound of the slow drip of the bathroom faucet, he lies awake in bed, staring at the ceiling. Counting each plop, he waits for sleep. At one hundred and fifty seven, his eyes won't even droop, and he knows it's useless. Throwing the blankets off of him, he swings his legs around to the side of the bed and puts his flat feet on the floor. Placing his hands on either side of his butt, he clenches the mattress and stares at his toes. He wiggles them. Splays them. Tries to cross one over another, but he never can.
Sighing, he pushes himself up, readjusts his pajama bottoms and heads for the kitchen. Passing the open door to the bathroom, he stops, leans in, and gives the cold water tap one more twist to the right. The water stops for a second, but then continues. Watching passively for a minute, he contemplates the droplets as they collect at the mouth of the faucet and then fall splat onto the ceramic bowl of the sink.
Reaching out, he sticks his pointer finger into the opening and lets the water trickle to his knuckle where it slips and snuggles into the creases below his thumb, before running into the center of his palm. Shivering a little from the coolness of it, he watches as the tiny stream of water that started from his finger eventually pools at his wrist and absorbs into the long sleeve of his cotton pajama top, and the reverberation of water droplets finally stops.
Holding back the flood, he stands with one arm extended. If only he could lie down, he would sleep.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


yielding \YEEL-ding\, adjective:
1. not resisting; compliant
2. not stiff or rigid; easily bent or shaped

Giving up. Giving in. Giving out. All the same way to admit that I lied. And it wasn't even easy. It would have been easier to tell the truth to you. But you didn't want to hear it. So I'll say it here. I'll say it while I'm watching you sleep, but I'll get out of bed to do it, and sit in the chair by the window, where I'm grateful for the opened crack of the window, the cool wind rushing in with every movement of the night.
The night.
That's it. That's what I wanted to tell you. It was the night. I followed you, and I was right. You went to her place. And I watched as you ran up the stairs to her door and knocked. I parked the car under the lamppost so that if you looked behind you, you might see me. But you didn't even turn around. You just faced the door and waited.
I might have honked the horn. I thought about it. I thought of rolling down the window and screaming out, "I see you! I see you!" My finger tip played with the button, but then the door opened and the light from inside was thrown across your body, and she leaned out and kissed you on the lips. You leaned in and then you were gone. All it took was one step forward, towards her. And you were gone.
My own body jerked forward. I can only say it felt like my heart was lunging for you. My insides heaved. When I finally opened the door, it was so that my mouth could open and close, open and close, gasping for breath or attempting to expunge everything, I don't know.
So when I told you just now, tonight, in the kitchen, that I didn't care. That it didn't matter. Please don't believe me. Please turn around right now. Please don't be sleeping. Tell me that it's over. That it was all a mistake. Lie to me too. And I'll believe you.

Monday, February 9, 2009


toady \TOH-dee\, noun:
a fawning flatterer; humble dependent

He struts around the room, head cocked, tail flexing in ess patterns like a snake skidding through water. He reaches the arm chair in the corner of the room where the other one is curled up on the cushion, comfortable. There is an almost imperceptible guttural, throat-clearing sound and suddenly the poor resting thing's head pops up. Frightened she looks around, but once catching his eye, she immediately uncurls, hops down and scurries away once her paws hit the floor. He watches her go with both an angry glare and a smug look. His whiskers twitch, and he licks his lips. Once all but the tip of her tail has left the room, he leaps to the spot she has just left behind and makes himself at home. Once, twice, three times he circles the space and then settles. Tucking his head by his feet, he begins to purr loudly and falls into a peaceful sleep.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


denigrate \DEN-i-greyt\, verb:
to attack the character or reputation of; defame

Lying in bed he snored while she still lie there fully awake. Naked. The room dark and cold. His body warm but her not wanting to snuggle up against him. She was on the inside, by the wall. She put her hand out and pressed it flat against the white, pasty coldness of it. Through it, she sensed the thick, frosty air outside. She turned her head to the window above his desk and saw the sky was beginning to turn colors. No longer dark blue, it was turning a slate gray. The winter color of morning. She shivered. He snored, lying on his stomach, with his head facing out toward the door. His arm and upturned palm the closest thing to her. Looking at him, feeling her nakedness on the crisp sheets, she knew she had to go.
She felt with her toes the end of the mattress, searching for her underwear. Her big toe looped around something crumpled and she slowly slid it toward herself. Feeling with her fingers, she found the right openings and slipped them carefully up her legs, trying not to move too much. She thought she remembered her bra on the floor, along with the jeans and sweater she'd worn out the night before. The hardest part would be crawling out of bed and putting on her clothes without waking him. She mentally crossed her fingers and hoped that he'd still be heavily sedated from the alcohol, but the fact that she was awake didn't convince her that was the case.
Flipping back the thin blanket that had been just barely covering her, she started to scrunch down to the end of the bed. Almost there, his head gave another snort and his body shifted. She paused. Looked at him. He was on his side now, still facing out. She waited and after a minute of nothing, she started to move again. Off the bed and around to his side, she tip-toed. Bending over to pick up her jeans, her breasts hung forward, the nipples hard from the cold air. Suddenly he grunted and she looked over at him. She saw his eyes were open, but he didn't move. Their eyes made contact for a few seconds. Feeling uncomfortable in her position, she moved to cover herself and stand up straight, but then he turned and faced the wall.
So she put on her clothes, no longer trying to be quiet. And when she was done she grabbed her purse, took a quick look around to be sure she hadn't left anything behind, and then escaped out the door of his apartment, went quickly down two flights of stairs and pushed the first floor door open to the outside. The chill of the early morning met her there. But this coldness she welcomed. Like diving into a pool of water and coming up for air. She walked to her car, thinking, never again. Never again.

Monday, February 2, 2009


chaff \chaf\, noun: the stiff strawlike part of grains such as wheat, oats, rye

Flax seed.
Nuts and bolts.
The building blocks of my body.

On top.
Of the other.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


wanton \WON-tn\, adjective:
1. reckless, heartless, or malicious; without reason or excuse
2. not moral; lewd, lascivious

Wanting. Needing. That's all there was then.
Dancing on the bar, skirt up, neckline down, leaning over the wrong side of the bar to grab a $1 beer from a bucket. Flash the tender a smile if he sees it. Jiggle a little, so nothing matters as much as what he's looking at.

Pop the tab, but don't forget to keep dancing. Lift the can to drink the fuel to make the hips swing wider, slower, longer. Maintain balance in those black heels with head tilted back, throat chugging. Put a free hand out and swing to the beat blaring from the loudspeakers.
Don't slip when the slimy hands of the local men grab at ankles and knees, aiming for the hem of the skirt. The bartop slick with the spilled remains of tequila shots and squirts of lime, grainy salt grinds underfoot, a bit of friction to lend a hand to balance.
Laughing, bend over and put the empty down. Take the men who offer their hands on the way to the floor. Know you are just as empty.

Monday, January 26, 2009


sallow \SAL-oh\, adjective: having a sickly, yellowish color

She didn't look good, slouched down around the toilet bowl, waiting for the next wave of nausea to rise. She already felt it swelling in her body, and she rocked slightly back and forth, as if lost at sea, and she clung tightly to the cool porcelain, as if it were her life raft, which in a way it was, she thought, grinning weakly at her joke.
Suddenly imagining herself as actually being adrift in a gray vast ocean, the choppy waters in her stomach began to rise and she lifted herself above the rim, waiting, willing the muscles in her throat to begin their contracting. When she thought of how many people must have sat there, with bare, exploding buttocks, she finally vomited. Pink stuff. Chunky. Gross. But she was also grateful.
Having rode that one out, she slouched back against the cupboard below the sink, in a movement both clumsy and measured. Not for the first time that night, she asked herself why. Just then, laughter exploded from the kitchen, glasses clinked together and a clamorous chorus of "It's a Pirate's Life for Me" began. She wanted to be laughing too, but all that came out was a groan, as the sea in her stomach rose, determined to sink her ship. A bottle of rum. Yo-ho...

Thursday, January 22, 2009


rancor \RANG-ker\, noun:
bitter resentment or ill will; extreme hatred or spite

Pulling at her hair, wanting to tear it all out, she faces the mirror and keeps yanking, until her scalp is throbbing, and she stops, finally imagining it coming out in fistfuls. She goes to the desk in her room and starts opening and closing the drawers, looking. Frantically pilfering through the odds and ends inside each, until she finds them. The scissors: metal, long, and sharp.
She goes back to the mirror. Looks at herself. Pulls up a few locks of her hair with her left hand, holding the shears in her right. And as she cuts, she looks into her own eyes, and sees them determined, suddenly clear. It feels right, as the scissors slice through the strands of brown.
At first she only cuts to the halfway point of the length of her hair, but as the first bunch falls to the floor and the leftover flops to her cheek, it's still too long, and there's not enough hair on the wooden floorboards, so she grabs more of the stuff still attached to her head and starts cutting closer to her skull. Up and around her ears to the nape of her neck and the top of her forehead, she cuts, until there's nothing left for her to pull up and stretch out, nothing more for the teeth of the scissors to bite into, until, for all intents and purposes, she is bald.
Her head is naked and feeling the coolness of the night air inside her room, she reaches up and rubs, enjoying the new sensation. Yes, she's enjoying this: looking different, feeling different. It's not her in the mirror anymore. She bends down and begins picking up what she's cut off, puts it all in the garbage. All the anger has left her, but she knows it's only for now, and somewhere beneath her newfound freedom, she wonders what next she'll have to cut off to feel happy again, to feel anything at all.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


pandiculation \pan-dik-yuh-LEY-shuhn\, noun: an instinctive stretching, as on awakening or while yawning

Like cats we stretch,
and rearrange,
curl up inside
a warm spot we've made.

Monday, January 19, 2009


kinetic \ki-NET-ik\, adjective: of or having to do with motion; caused by motion

Moving forward, I think about the feet inside my shoes. And I concentrate on the heat on my arms and the slight breeze at my back and the evenly spaced trees that line the street to my right. I keep my eyes on the sun-dappled sidewalk and my steps inside the connecting shadows of the elms. One foot in front of the other.
When I feel like skipping, I do. Knee up, heel back, toe push up. Knee up, heel back, toe push. Arms swing. I make my hands into fists. I try to skip higher, and higher. Each step more fierce than the one before, briskly flinging myself forward. Stop. Walk again. Fists still swinging. It's a fast walk, until I'm running. The trees whisk outside my peripheral vision. I watch the lines and cracks of the sidewalk slip underneath me. The air that was warm is now chill on my face and arms. I feel goosebumps raising. And I push my legs and the bend of my knees to work harder, make me faster. I do my best to breath in through my mouth and out through my nose. Only when I feel the cramp begin under my ribs, and see the numbers of my mailbox, do I slow down.
I turn left, go through the gate of my house, walk up to the steps and enter beside the stairs to the second floor, make my way to the kitchen, pour and drink a glass of milk from the fridge, set it in the sink and leave the house again through the sliding glass doors behind the kitchen table. I walk to the edge and lay down, stretching out my body to its fullest length. After a deep breath, I throw myself over. I laugh into the green grass as I roll down the hill, stealing glances of the blue sky as I flip, flip, flop to the bottom.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


jettison \JET-uh-suhn, JET-uh-zuhn\, noun: the act of throwing goods overboard when a craft is in distress; also, the goods thrown overboard

I guess you could say we were sinking, say we were the captains going down with the ship.
That's certainly what it felt like. But we held on at the sides, didn't we? Did our best to plant our feet, pretend we weren't slipping. Didn't we? Grinning over our shoulders at one another from our opposite sides, gritting our teeth, preparing for the inevitable, the rising water at our ankles.

What was it we said to each other in those days? I can hardly remember. Only now I see clearly all the signs we intentionally ignored, and I wonder why lovers do that. Oh, lovers, why?

I recall now one morning when I turned to you in bed, your body curled beneath the covers, and I made myself to fit around you. Just as I relaxed and took in the scent of your skin, you straightened. The intimate curl of your back turned hard and you shifted so that I had to make room for your shoulder and elbow. I knew, with that single movement, I had been dismissed. I remember that was the first time I imagined our bed as a boat,
and as I turned away to face the wall, I could almost feel the cold spit of the waves as they rose.

Monday, January 12, 2009


hapless \HAP-lis\, adjective: unlucky; unfortunate

An old mop that not even Cinderella could love leans propped in the corner of a dusty laundry room.
Forlorn. Forgotten. It sighs and its long, stained braids of dingy rope give a tiny, pathetic shudder. The gray cement is cold. The air is drafty. Only a musty arm of light shoots down into the middle of the floor from the single basement window that unwittingly adorns the room. This ray of light only makes the lonely mop's corner feel even darker, and so again it sighs.
Without exactly meaning to, it keeps track of the time by watching the path the stream of light takes throughout the days. Most times its barely aware that the days go by at all. It dares not care about years.
Sometimes it wishes a small breeze would flit by and knock it to the floor, break its wooden shaft in half, or even simply send it spinning around the room, anything to end the monotony of its mindless misery, hoping that the bucket were there too.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


daunt \dawnt, dahnt\, verb:
1. to frighten; overcome with fear
2. to discourage; lessen the courage of

"Don't," she said, but he pulled at her hand again, urging. "Seriously, Joseph, stop it."
"Seriously, Joseph, stop it," he taunted her.
She yanked her hand out of his grasp. Immediately, her other hand began to rub her wrist where he had been pulling at her.
He let his hand drop to his side, but then, just as suddenly, he let it sweep back up to try to grab her again.
She dodged him.
"I don't understand what you're so afraid of," he said, pouting now.
"And I don't care," she said, able once again to allow the tone of defiance to spring back into her voice, which had only moments ago been filled with pleading.

The ocean roared beyond them, just below the cliff. She could see the waves breaking, hear them beating against each other with white, foaming fists, feel them in the ground beneath her feet, crashing into the shore, where she imagined they would finally find the space to spread out, uninhibited, and peacefully sink their fingers between the infinite grains of sand.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


yegg \yeg\, noun: a burglar who robs safes; safecracker

I bang and crack the white
thin shell against the hard,
contoured edge of a stone bowl,

and with the fingers of both hands,
rend the halves I've created
apart and empty out the contents within.

I toss away the remainder
of the small universe, destroyed,
watching as the eye of a yellow sun,

floats in a mattress of clear liquid rays
and settles at the bottom of the bowl,
staring up at me.

with the tongs of a fork,
I puncture its globe and beat,
until it explodes,
diffusing into a whirlpool
of my own creation.