Sunday, May 29, 2011

Language and Place on the Edge

Everyone loves a carnival, and there's none better than the Blogcarnival, conceived by the wondrous Dorothee Lang. Number 6 goes live, hosted by the equally wonderous Michelle Elvy. Take a look-see -- some superb ponderings on what it means to be on the edge. It's like a house and garden tour, but better. Peace...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Poet

She sits there primly, quietly, a smile playing on her face. The smile is an almost permanent one, lips sloping upward at the corners. Not a grin or leer, not a false beam showing too many perfectly tended teeth. I imagine if you were the minister and woke in the morning, her sleeping beside you, the laugh lines holding her smile in place would crease into gentler canyons.

But back to the wife. She sits in the front pew, always, in the seat closest to the wall, settling in three minutes before service. I use her entrance as a clock for when to deposit the coffee cup, finish the conversation, and scan the sanctuary for my seat. I often choose the empty space beside someone new, someone of the female persuasion, for there is something quite delicious about the air between people strange to each other, something that makes my skin crackle alive with the possibility of touch. During the service hands brush against the other in opening the shared hymnal, when passing the offering basket. After the benediction, the smiles, the exchange of names. I mention I am a poet. She smiles - how romantic! – and the lure is set.

But today I sit three-quarters back on the other side of the room, the view to the front unobstructed. The minister strides past, black robes swooshing. All rise at the organ’s stridency. Before sitting she always touches her husband – his hand, his shoulder, the back of his neck. I almost imagine the feel of those dry, manicured fingers. Today is not different. After that caress he smiles and stands before us. She smoothes her skirt around her knees, shushing the children. A paragon of virtue: her daughters clean and polite, her words kind, her potlucks impeccable. The prelude begins.


Inspired by... life. The best way to survive turbulence is to aim straight through it. Here, a sketch, one of several characters that touch the life of The Minister's Wife. More to come. Peace...

Monday, May 23, 2011

When in Doubt, Choose Love (Not Fear)

I've been quiet of late. Very quiet. Yes, I have been busy -- papers to read, exams to administer, 160 pharmacy students to graduate, Spring concerts and picnics, grant proposals, conferences. I am tired. Physically exhausted.

On top of this physical busy-ness, life now is turbulent.

And I do not thrive in uncertainty.

Change brings out fear in people. Fear smells bad and makes people behave badly. When friends I think I know and love disappoint me, it puts me into a funk. Ten years, and betrayals at all levels -- my family, my children, my confidences. Ten years of relationship that evaporate at the whiff of change.

I am tired. Of having high expectations of people. Of being the loyal friend. Of taking the high road. Of holding my tongue. Of not fighting back. But I would rather suffer exhaustion than succumb to the ennervation of fear because I want to sleep at night.

When in doubt, choose love. This is my mantra. The silver lining is that others I love also choose love, and this is what fuels me. For those of you who choose the higher, selfless path -- thank you. You know who you are. Peace...

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Two girls dead. Young things, she’d read. Just out of college. Miriam imagined short skirts drawn tight across tanned thighs, hoop earrings, poofy hair. The click-clack of four inch heels on the sidewalk. Not like her sensible walkers, all leather with skid-proof soles. They probably wore too much make-up and those silly push-up bras that made young women look whorish.

She belted her coat and clutched her purse tight under her arm. Red-lettered signs plastered the lobby door, alerting residents to the at-large murderer and admonishing care in traveling alone. Miriam hesitated. In the glass she saw her once smooth neck gathered in folds, the sagging jaw-line, eyes sallow and trampled with crows’ feet. The raincoat failed to hide the stubby thickness of her stomach. How had she gotten so frumpy looking? She remembered the feeling of weightlessness, of being lifted against gravity, the soft whoosh of tulle as her partner’s hands grasped the bottoms of her thighs and held her aloft. In the harsh spotlights the audience had glowed, as she must have shimmered to them, so full of grace thirty years ago.

She smoothed her hair. Perhaps she should buy a small gun, at least some mace. She looked again at her reflection. Age is defense enough, she thought, and pushed into the night.


I think much about how my self-image changes as I grow older. In my twenties, I felt beautiful and invincible, eager to flawnt my body, my face, my golden hair. The consequences of that sexual naivete led to self-preservation in older years and fear of going out alone. Now, in my middle years, I again enjoy a certain freedom in walking unencumbered, with no eyes watching, waiting. Perhaps a false sense of security. This is what I am playing with in this small fiction. Peace...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

39 is HERE!

Thirty-nine, the latest quarterly by 52/250, is out -- and what a tremendous celebration of art and words! Stories by Len Kuntz, Guy Yasko, Robert Vaughn, Catherine Russell, Marcus Speh, Susan Gibb, and a host of other uber-writer-artist types, including yours truly.

Thank you editors Michelle, Walter, and John for putting on yet another super 'zine. Peace...

Monday, May 16, 2011

when i refuse the lithium

the angels whisper a cacophony -- unsullied by any elemental metal
i effervesce up up up to blinding sun -- swathed in immortalizing
armor i surge feet pumping a limitless engine immune to flames
licking from joy’s corona -- mad elixirs in my brain swirly
whirly bombard microcosmic synapses dopaminated nerves electrify
crimson corridors connecting muscle to mind

i hurl heavenwards

wings beat down the stalking shadow -- from here nurse is an ant
her entreaties flutter in my maelstrom -- i pause listen consider
the idiocies and the blazing beckoning white -- but bliss melts
blue hot hot hot -- my seraphim falter whistling screams on the
dive bomb their waxen pinons crackle-pop my legs and arms scrabble
in endless air -- nurse chortles at my spiral her teeth a jag
of evil normalcy -- minute orbs roll in her upturned palm

my shrunken incinerated hand hovers

The sun scuttles behind the moon, turning sky to asphalt, sulfurous and lovely.


The lovely and wonderous Michelle Elvy is hosting the latest Language - Place Blog Carnival. The theme? Language and place on the edge. My contribution is an experimental poem I wrote two years ago and featured in Eascape Into Life. For what can be more on the edge than riding mania to its polar abyss?

Enjoy the carnival. Peace...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Phantom Sister

Marlena comes to me on the cusp of sleep and wakefulness, when the world blurs grey. She soars through yellow-tinted waves, her bald shining skull pushing through water. Although she never speaks, she makes a gurgling sound, high-pitched like the bottle-nosed dolphins at the Aquarium. I look but never see her face. When I wake up, the bottoms of my feet sting as though I scissor-kicked through 100 laps. Those mornings I call in sick and sleep in the boat’s hold. The gentle rocking hugs me.

My twin sister Maria lives halfway around the world in the Catoctin Mountains. She paints and writes poems about trees. We rarely see each other but the internet tethers us. Maria has the same dreams about Marlena -- we think of them as visitations – but she feels the ache in her chest, the left side, a sharp pain like someone has plunged in an icy hand and wrested out her heart. Afterwards she also feels an uncommon, exhausting peace. We wonder if this is how we tangled in our mother’s womb: hands to feet to heart.

I find an old photo of the two of us, a college road trip to Baltimore. Our smiling faces squeezed together, the Washington monument towers behind us. I scan the picture, push send and the image zips to Maria’s mountaintop. Seconds later, she writes back. “There’s a hole between us.” I look closer at the photograph and my soles burn.


My ultimate 52-250 Flash -- this IS Number 52. 250 words, every week for 52 weeks. Inspired by the theme: threesome.

Note: Writing this last flash wrought a lot of emotion, not because of the story but because of the journey. The editors of 52/250 -- Michelle Elvy, Walter Bjorkman, and John Wentworth Chapin -- put heart and soul into this endeavor and, in return, so did an amazing community of writers. So thank you.

The weekly exercise of writing concisely to a theme challenged me as a writer perhaps more than any other endeavor I've undertaken, with the possible exception of my novels. 52/250 was a glorious ride traveled with stupendous fellow journeyers, tremendous stories embodying excellent craft, and of course, the most superb guidance. I am not sure how I will spend the next 52 weeks, and I feel a bit bereft. Two novels to fine-tune, another waiting to be written, graduate school applications all wait, but I think my Fridays just got lonelier. Thank you to all who have read my little stories, commented on them, spread them through cyberspace. Peace...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Are You A Writer?

An artist? A creator?

Do you worry you will never find an audience?

Never find a publisher?

Never create anything 'good enough'?


(With a hearty thanks to Janet Reid for posting first).

Peace, Linda

Saturday, May 07, 2011

To The Mothers

To the Mothers -- the ones who birthed us, the ones who fed us, clothed us, loved us in our scabby knees and tangled hair and imperfection.

To the mothers within us -- the parts of us who care and nurture children, cats, dolls, and jade plants. We are all mothers -- biology is just a small part, necessary but insufficient. Peace...

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Unintended Consequences

You sit there bleary-eyed morning tired, your coffee growing cold. The headlines blur. Your mother’s chitter-chatter segues into wall-paper and you try to remember where you parked the car, whether it’s pulled in nice and tight in the garage or whether you left it curbside, afraid the garage door lifting at god-knows-when would wake mom, but you can’t remember, you don’t remember much of anything, not driving, not stumbling up the stairs, not sleeping. Nothing.

But you remember this: mom already on the couch with her Scotch and week’s worth of Tivo, she assumes you’re with Brad and Mac, and you are, but not at the movies, you’re chugging beer and smoking blunts in Lorraine’s basement while you listen to Zeppelin, Morrison, Hendrix, the stuff your mom plays when she feels old, and for the first time all week you stop worrying how you bombed AP biology and how you missed the Berkeley deadline and what the hell you’ll do about college, you don’t have the dough for Stanford but damn if you’ll go to San Jose State, and then Lorraine pulls you from the couch, so alive, warm, so smiley, and you pile into your Mercury and barrel down the street, windows down, the air smells like sea, the night goes forever.

The milk smell makes you nauseous. Your mom says, “Pity about Stacie, some drunk ran over her dog last night,” and you remember the crunching sound when you took the corner at Beloit and Anderson, tires squealing.


My penultimate 52/250 flash -- this IS Number 51. Inspired by the theme: unintended consequences. Peace...

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Getting Grubby -- Again

Back from The Muse and the Marketplace, Grub Street's annual writefest. And wow. Of course, Boston's primo anytime, but Friday when I emerged from the Park Street T, the Public Garden was awash in pinks and ivories and that sweet Spring green that lasts about a day.

But before I get to the business, here's the pleasure -- spending time with friends. I thai-ed one on with dear friend Colleen Khao Sarn (think keffir leaves with dried shrimp and toasted coconut, crispy calamari, and mango curry shrimp) and the next evening dined with Nudger Steve and Dee at the Erbaluce (think: a well-rounded nebbelio, prosciutto with hazelnuts and organic pear, rabbit roasted with foraged mushrooms, lobster in a saffron sauce, razor clams).

Now, to the writing (it IS all about the writing, afterall). I attended the 10th annual Muse and the Marketplace, sponsored by Boston's own GRUB STREET. A two day conference, this year over 700 writers, agents, and editors converged to talk shop, listen and learn, and do all other things writerly. Saturday morning I met with An Agent, who had read my query and first 20 pages of Novel #1.

Then, off to my first session on revision, led by the very able and fabulous writer Ann Hood. "Take your first draft on a date," she says. "Have Kinko's box your baby up and go to the beach, a cafe, a mountain, armed with pens, highlighters, and post-its, and rip her apart." The best exercise: go through each scene and note the emotion at the beginning and end as positive or negative. If the signs are the same, either ditch the scene or ramp up the tension to switch one sign to the opposite.

Pauline Chen gave a great talk about balancing two careers. A liver transplant surgeon, she penned FINAL EXAM: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality. We spoke afterwards, and we talked about mourning lost roles as we formed new ones. I purchased her memoir, which she graciously signed, and devoured half of it later that evening. Her stories resonate so deeply (see Colleen, I can use an adverb).

Lots of great sessions on voice, story structure, tips of applying for residencies and fellowships. Ron Carlson admonished writers to stay in the room -- and write. I met new friends, bought a few books, read three of my 1 sentence stories (I am no longer a reading virgin - yay!), and got super inspired.

Oh, and the Agent? My first full request. Fingers crossed.

And now, I am exhausted. Peace, Linda