Author Archives: deemallon

Decline and Breakthrough

Another cold and rainy day. There was the weekly 1/2 hour indivisible group phone call at eight.  Two check in calls with my sister. Two ventures out with Finn. Daily pages written by hand early and chapter revisions done later on laptop. 

Yesterday was busy and draining. I took my sister to an appt and out to buy booze and annuals. The limitations imposed by recent weight gain seem to be the new normal (she can’t use any of the three methods of transport I’ve arranged for her anymore; severe shortness of breath when moving; increased difficulty dressing and bathing). Very discouraging — more for her than for me, but also for me. Came home and planted my annuals — coleus, sage, and rosemary. Cleaned up. Grocery shopped. And then spent the rest of the late afternoon wondering why I was so tired?

Finished this vertical denim backed piece yesterday — well, almost. 

I’m loving how it came together, what it came together with, and the result. Such a rarity! But maybe I’m on to something? For such a modest little piece: it feels like a breakthrough. 

Don’t you just hate posts about blogging?

Posts about blogging often have a Catholic air of contrition about them: “Bless me Father, for I have sinned — I have not posted in six days.” Ach, indulge me as I cast before you a post about blogging!

img_2353Earlier this week, I published a few paragraphs about K traveling to a city in China very close to North Korea. It was freaking me out, etc. I thought maybe I could institute a practice of sharing his absence in real time because of our barky friend, Finn — but then thought the better of it. Why advertise vulnerability? (Since K’s now en route from Beijing to Newark, it’s public again).

[By the way, I don’t need my husband to be within Seoul’s radiation range to care about nuclear escalation — (in fact two others in my indivisible group and I have an appointment to speak with Representative Joe Kennedy about this next week). Let’s just say that the possibility of immediate personal harm amplifies concern].

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Then I started a post about housekeeping. Part nod to the need for discrete tasks with tangible results in a world spinning out of control and part nostalgic lament. (And yes, I really am picking detritus out from between the floor boards with a fowl pin!)

The house is tidier than ever. The raking more thorough. It’s hard not to wonder: what was so impossible about keeping a neat house while the boys were growing up?

Not wanting a question so fundamentally unfair to myself to linger unanswered, I considered an exercise in prescriptive memoir. Let’s document the positive!

I have a terrible memory, but this warping of recollection in the direction of personal failing is something else. It hurts.

But then it all felt incredibly disingenuous and anyway, in the process of rereading journals to “build my case,” I kept finding stuff that highlighted my missteps. Whoops! I got jammed. Really jammed.

I consulted my dear Byron Katie and got a little unstuck.

I’m tired of taking sides.

And anyway, wouldn’t a disordered lament make me more vulnerable and therefore be more interesting than some tidy, upbeat chirp of a post, which corrective or not, is ultimately self-congratulatory?

Messy then. Less messy now. So what.

I’ll leave you with a few of the pictures I scared up. I’ve made no attempt to span the years or to be thorough in any way (you know me better than that!)

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Bombs and bluebells

Dalian, China doesn’t share a border with North Korea but it’s pretty close, just across the Bay of Korea.

There’s K, dapper in a crisp green and blue plaid shirt and charcoal grey slacks, packing. I crack open an eye: “a little overdressed for nuclear warfare, aren’t you?”

This weekend I almost googled “radiation fall out” but raked some more instead.

And speaking of bombs, the Boston Marathon is today. We must’ve heard forty helicopters and dozens of sirens over the weekend. No, make that dozens of sirens on each of Saturday and Sunday. Practice, I guess. K thought each was an emergency. “Can’t be. Can’t be,” I kept saying.

I’m not going this year (we live pretty close to Heartbreak Hill). Instead, I plan to *write, walk the dog, write, play fetch with the dog, write, eat lunch. Repeat from * substituting supper on second round.

Finn wanted a quick game before Ks cab to the airport arrived (did I mention he’s going to Dalian, on Korea Bay?) but it was too early. It’s school vacation week and some of our neighbors will be sleeping in.

The Virginia Bluebells are up. The maples bud at last.

At the curb, I do my best Sean Spicer, “Say hello to Kim Young She!”

Easter was hot. But today should be cooler — perfect for the race.

Feedback on chapter five

Yesterday was my day to get feedback on some manuscript pages. Much was very positive (always nice to hear) — the prose was “vivid” “raw,” “transporting,” with credible characters. The rapes described: ‘disturbing without being gratuitous’ (but would they have used the word ‘rape’? –  good question).

The more critical feedback addressed some of the ongoing difficulties. These difficulties are listed below in no particular order:

1). It’s my first attempt at writing a novel. 2). There’ve been some ongoing (sometimes heartbreaking) caretaking responsibilities during these same years. 3). Voice. Voice. Voice. 4). Race. Race. Race. 5). Tempo (is this section too interior? have I spent too much time describing the light?)

Voice goes to research and it goes to structure and it goes to race (including but not limited to problems of cultural appropriation) and it may be the single biggest ongoing challenge I face. If I ever dump the project (and believe me, I consider it often), this will be the reason.

To put it another way:  How, as a white suburban Yankee in the 2000’s, do I craft a southern landscape with authentic (or at least not mortally offensive) white and black characters set in the mid-eighteenth century? 

I chose to tell the Eliza Lucas Pinckney chapters in first person and the bondwomen sections in third person close. I didn’t think I could pull off first person for the enslaved characters, a decision that seems alternately respectful and cowardly. Even third person close is very very hard. Until a professional asks me to revisit these two overarching decisions, I’m sticking with them.

But, can I rethink the complete absence of an omniscient narrator? Not having one means that historic conditions have to be explained vis-a-vis the characters. It can be cumbersome. Plus, I’m denied any opportunity to make modern observations about human bondage (which, in the thick of things, believe me, I do really want to make).

Some historic junk I’ve assimilated so thoroughly that it flows into the narrative easily and then the issue is — does my reader understand what I’m talking about? what’s a ‘factor’? is a ‘Guinea’ a ship? why say ‘rigger’ when ‘sailor’ would do?) Other times, it’s just clunky and it’s hard for me to know if I’m showing off (look what I’ve learned!) or whether the historic business at hand is essential to the story.

“working in the brakes… certain winds over Barbados brought the smell of a slaver long before its sail appeared on the horizon… Noah was a quadroon… the cutter monkeyed to the ground, hand still clutching the machete”

Anyway, when the idea was floated to allow myself the occasional insertion of an omniscient narrator, I was very open to it. And, guess what? I’ve been hearing this new voice talk all day and it’s not at all who I expected (i.e., white, female academic). Instead, he’s a sly and humorous bondman. I suspect his forceful commentary will ‘lay some learnin’ on me way before he does on you. I don’t think he’ll get a name. We’ll see. I’ve also kept the Barbadian cane grower who rapes one of my main characters (Sally aka Melody) nameless.

Tomorrow: how what I learned about accountability at the Organizing on (Safety) Pins and Needles anti-racism training on Wednesday applies to manuscript feedback.

(Note next day: Nope. Can’t go there yet).

Photographs were taken February 2017, at MacLeod Plantation on James Island.

The act of tiny fingers

Here’s a 6.5 minute crude lament from today’s writing class. The prompt was to begin a piece with the line, ‘he steps a foot away and spits’. I stumble a few times and need to figure out how to turn pages more quietly, but hope the mistakes aren’t too distracting.  Please let me know if viewing is problematic. Maybe YouTube’d be better?

Here it is in print (I fix a mistake in the 1st paragraph):

 

The Act of Tiny Fingers

He steps a foot away and spits. His phlegm lands in a glistening lump. He is a master
of distraction and will impose no bounds on his tricks… certainly not propriety or hygiene.

He will steal your dog, rifle through your purse just for fun, and decapitate your peonies some moonlit night in June.

You wake heartbroken at the pink debris, no idea he’d been by.

He picks his teeth and scratches his balls — especially in front of young women — as if those young women didn’t already feel the menace of his maleness.

He’s a ticket to hell. He’s hell itself.

But, don’t take it personally. He will do whatever crosses his path.

Of course he has a predilection for things with slits between their legs — see how even in calling out his sins how his sick cosmology taints our capacity to name ourselves!

But yeah, he’d prefer to fuck with girls or women but boys don’t get a free pass because of course by now you know that our gross master’s magic depends on opportunism.

He’s a sneak, but only for fun because he has the power to impose blatant violations openly. Day in and day out, he commits his atrocities. A fallen building here, starvation mid-Africa, soul-stealing all along the streets of Detroit.

I hope I don’t need to tell you who funds our clever sinner, now do I?

Big pharm, gun makers, gas and oil dealers and all their unmanned, creepy minions. Is it easier to sit atop your high horse, Mitch McConnell’s of the world, when your balls have been handed to you so long ago you can’t remember where you hid them? Did you hide them? A trophy of shame and compromise.

Oh the calls how they come! The justice mavericks need money more than ever and I’m just trying to eat my lunch, watching bad crime show re-runs. The insistent demanding fundraiser wasn’t having my refusal — kept on sputtering her message — Emily’s List! Georgia! 2018!  I stopped being annoyed and became something like amused. But the wallet remained clamped shut until she misspoke (did she mispeak?) and called the Koch brothers, ‘the Cock Brothers’.

At that point, I might’ve handed over my first born. “Just for that,” I laughed, “here’s my Visa number, expiration June 2018.”

It is no glum, exaggerated prognostication to think we might not be here come June 2018.

He grossly clears another load of phlegm and lobs it through time and space so that it almost hits my shoe. Such precision! Such calculation! Of course he’d slobber on my foot if he so chose. I know it and he knows I know it. It’s all a game to him — tally and torment. Grabbing and removing lawmakers’ manhood one minute and violating an anchorwoman the next.

But! But! The predator’s ratings rise — like his purple veined member! Apparently, the dollars of hard working folk and the dollars of companies willing to take a stand don’t matter as much as we’d like to think.

Did he use a microphone? Was it greased with spit?

And you want to call ME gross? Does the reporting of violation constitute violation?

In the morning we rise, no longer unclear about what the matter is. Remember those frosty mornings in November — in that early time of disbelief when you’d wake and scramble through memory wondering, “Now what is it that’s so god-damned awful?”

Oh. Yeah.

The prankster works at all ends of a crisis — first (but not first) mortgage scams denying people of color entry to the middle class, then a so-called war on drugs (the Devil loves euphemism in case you don’t know), then the double, triple standards of education, employment —

Oh Christ! The line of sin is so long just recounting it takes more juice than I possess, but for now think: LEAD. Lead in the water. Not an iffy contaminant, but a known poison with known, documented harmful results upon ingestion, especially to growing brains.

Oh how we worried about paint chips in our 200 year old house! Waited for the blood work. Sighed with relief. Such privilege!

Syrian babies make buffoons cry on television. Or was it the man-baby’s wife-daughter who cried and inspired his missile attack? Talk about compensation! Maybe half our problems would go away if the giant fool could simply (simply?) fuck his daughter.

I am prepared to wipe my shoe if need be.

But am I brave enough to launch a kick — particularly when I am too short to reach any tender pieces above the knee?

The Devil operates in abstractions, too, but revels in the bawdy, the crude, the parts that smell and tug and shove and release. It’s not me reveling.

I can’t even make a gob of spit like that. Is phlegm production related to lying in any way? If so, there must be rows of spittoons in the House and Senate and along the corridors of our formerly esteemed White House.

The overwhelm of destructive might be working — shock and awe, they said, shock and awe. Or was it fire storm? I mix the metaphors — proof in point. When we turn on the news and the most recent, singular, and shocking revelation makes you reach for the clicker, that’s the Devil’s work, too. He wears us out.

Pandora has a place here, too. Let’s ask — how? How? How on earth do we stuff this bile and vitriol and regressive policy back into the box?

Don’t we already pay with pained childbirth and cancer? Must we also suffer as witnesses to the act of tiny fingers turning a clock back decades? Undoing, undoing, undoing.

Oh please, spare us — just go fuck your daughter.

 

Pull up the storms!

The windows are open. The temperatures rise. I rake the ground with bare fingers, gloved hands, and big or small rakes, depending. Everywhere, flora pokes up.

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Here’s a good question: to whom are you accountable?

To children, husband: yes. To creative source and self (overlapping, but not the same): yes. To my dog: yes. To God: no (even on a believing day, my god isn’t hands on enough to be keeping score). To my moral conscience: yes.

To my sister? Not absolutely. Not what I owe both of my boys or what I’d owe my parents were they still around. And, I am not accountable to my parents on behalf of my sister, especially since some of her problems are their fault. Today I separate what I might owe her as my sister and what she thinks I owe her.

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If one form of accountability cancels out another, I must resolve in favor of self. Period. Period. You have no idea how difficult this is. I am not seeking advice or sympathy but hoping to strengthen resolve by marking a change of direction.

 

Good news!

THE SUN is OUT!

I got my NEW GLASSES! They were so INEXPENSIVE!  I got TWO PAIR!



YARD WASTE pick up resumed! I LOVE RAKING!





This potted beauty was $14.99! I should have gotten TWO!

I’M GATHERING info about impeachment for my group. I’M DOING something! Learning! Networking with OTHERS! Remembering the only thing I ever liked about the law (i.e. applying constitutional principles to right wrongs).


I LOVE TWITTER, because I find funny things, too!

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MY NEW Endocrinologist IS A DOLL! He TOOK AN HOUR to explain things to me! It’s like the Universe SENT HIM A MEMO on how to perfectly offset the behavior of DR. ARTURO, of Boston– an unprofessional, condescending, cavalier prick who dwells in a grubby office and actually hung up on me a few weeks back. I GIGGLED ALL THE WAY HOME!

And get this, my new AMAZING doctor recommends using FOOD to feed the body calcium not supplements!  GREENs — I love them! Beans, yogurt – real FAVES of mine! BYE BYE ridiculously EXPENSIVE HORSE PILLS!!



Working on chapter summaries and it FEELS LIKE PROGRESS! Also, read part of  TERRIFIC ARTICLE ON CULTURAL APPROPRIATION (to be shared later — regarding the Emmett Till painting controversy). IT gets added to my ‘I HAVE PERMISSION TO WRITE A STORY SET IN SLAVE TIMES’ file (Yes, I have such a file). YEAH!!!
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The BLM activist who wrote an article about how thoroughly and completely white people ruin the movement for racial equality IS OFFERING TRAININGS IN BOSTON NEXT WEEK! HER ARTICLE RUINED MY DAY. I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW HOW to say so without evoking #whitefragility and #itsnotaboutyou but I DARED TO anyway to a BLACK FB FRIEND. We’re still friends.

I’M GONNA GO! (Am I foolish to think it can’t be two hours of telling white people how much they suck?) I FEEL BRAVE! I FEEL GOOD ABOUT TAKING RISKS WHERE IT REALLY MATTERS!

Organizing on [Safety] Pins & Needles Level I & II @ 24 Farnsworth St, Boston, MA 02210-1211, United States, Boston [from 11 to 13 April]

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Have a nice weekend everyone! And I won’t blame you if you decide to skip the “Bad News” post that’s already forming in my head.