Tag Archives: writing

Blue follows grey

The bitter cold continues. Today, however, is brightened by a clear sky and glorious sun and all that light reflecting off blankets of white snow.Getting back to writing after a brief hiatus is like turning a cruise liner — generally taking longer than one might expect. Here it is Friday and I am finally back at it. You know you’re working when entire paragraphs come to you while out with the dog.

Meanwhile, a very good friend of mine’s husband died two nights ago. I can barely wrap my mind around how drastically her life has just changed. The loss. I’ll see her later today.

On a more prosaic note, I’m happy to report that there were no storm-related calamities here and that I finished another book (that’s 4 in 4 days — I’ll be slowing down now).

Whatever’s going on for you, it never hurts to follow this advice:

Nothing is simple

Such a crashing week of news. One terrible revelation after another. I am gritting my teeth waiting for this tax bill to pass. And that might not be the worst thing happening this week. The FCC. Tom Cotton? The hateful, incendiary retweets. Sexual assault wall to wall.

On a personal front, there was also disappointment: a work place slow down for one of my sons. Money and more money flowing out from here to there. Unsustainable.

Good news? Is there any? It could be that the writing is chugging along with a kind of sparking determination. I’m hard at switching the chapters told in third person close narrative to first person, did I say? There’s a lot behind that. Years of thought actually. And it’s happening with a kind of forward movement that is energizing. Lending coherence.

For years, writing the enslaved characters from first person seemed an impossibility. I built in some distance out of respect. I thought. Then it started to seem like cowardly avoidance. Respectful/Cowardly. Back and forth that went. The debate about Sofia Coppola’s remake of the Civil War movie “The Beguiled” (in which she wrote out the black character, thinking she wouldn’t do the character justice) was a tipping point.*

* the specific debate that was most compelling can be heard here on the podcast “still processing“.

Writing this after midnight.

Here, too is a link to It’s Crow Time blog, where Mo posted about my pennant’s progress for the “I Dream of a World Where Love is the Answer” project. How her summary and the comments uplifted! I want them handy for the next time I sail into the doldrums.

Today, I stitched more than twenty red beads onto the walnut-dyed covering cloth. They look beautiful.

Such good news!

I received intensely good news on Thursday, news that’s galvanizing my revised deadline.

  • (New deadline: January 6).

Are you ready? A friend pitched my book to a friend of hers who happens to be a literary agent, someone legit. The agent is “very interested,” loves the topic. Will read the manuscript when I’m ready — (“she’ll know when she’s ready”). She said, “It’ll all come down to the writing.” Well, yes — I’m ON IT!

The Universe is on notice. No more weeks lost to health issues — please! — mine or anybody else’s! Holidays — gotta be simple this year — for real! No travel til next year.

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Just prior to this incredible news, I’d set up an altar to my ancestors for the first time ever. Interesting, eh? What began as an exercise in learning about African American tradition already lifts my spirits and powerfully furthers my goal.

I’ve always known my parents would root for me and think me up to the task, but this is different. It’s faith-based and operates within non-linear constructs of time.

 

  • That’s me in the B&W. It must be in Rome, Georgia, because I look to be about two?
  • In the second photo (taken at Jones Beach, perhaps?), my mother wears plaid and my father is to the left. I wonder who that guy is to the right? Leaning in like that? This would’ve been some summer in between semesters at Pratt Institute (Brooklyn, NY — where they met).

Five hours

This is an erasure post. The original version was both too long and too revealing. The skeleton version makes less sense but holds more mystery, I think.


In hours, pushed, eye-rolling, huffing.
Five hours. I found her angle.
Risk a fool, like picking a scab. A person,
a villain, at least refusal. If hope
would speed silence!

Little judgment next. I gathered my things.
Later! Bother! In five hours,
the scope, nothing.

What I meant was, I’m wracked. I’m shutting
the door, halfway. An about face. HEAVEN!
It took unreason to drive the welcome —
Oh file, reference — mantra even. Five hours.

Back. Just BE! Oops.
Like morning needing witness,
she would chance fact, impossible
keep. I am
undone.

Ask, “do I want to be tagged home?”

Christ can track down the days, night,
a person.

 

 

 

 

 

Losing things and finding them

Are you a person who loses things a lot of the time or just now and then? A recent New Yorker article by Kathryn Schulz takes a beautiful wander through the topic. Subtitled, Reflections on Two Seasons of Loss, Schulz examines not just the business of losing things, but also what it means to lose our minds and loved ones.

Things go missing so much in this house that I have categories for lost objects, not unlike the childhood game of calling out ‘warm’, ‘cold’ or ‘HOT HOT HOT’. I usually can tell that I’m going to retrieve a lost object before I find it and often sense its general vicinity. Lest you think that gives me some sort of advantage, know this: even a ‘hot’ lost item with a felt sense of place can take DAYS to find.

In my early twenties, my checkbook went missing so often that the bank tellers on North Street rolled their eyes to see me coming. I’ve gotten somewhat better. Medication helps.

In spite of my incapacity, family members are right to ask me where things are, since in addition to being an over-the-top loser of things, I’m a good finder. Is that uncommon? My mother used to call me “old eagle eyes” and ask me to round up her scissors.

When the “where’s my” question is posed to me, it feels like more of an imposition that it might otherwise, because I’m kinetic. Being kinetic means I have to take notes to remember anything and that to find a lost object, I have to move my body. When both boys were home over Christmas, I really enjoyed cooking for them and felt neutral about loaning the car and picking up. But the “where’s my?” routine was annoying.

“Where’s my jacket?” “Where’d I leave the fob?” “Did you move my paycheck?”

I was asked to find things I hadn’t used, touched or seen. Being winter, I’d have to unearth myself from a blanket, heating pad and lap top (that’s two cords and a lot of fabric). My joints hurt sometimes. I’d groan. Then I’d wander around the house, maybe finding their lost thing, maybe not.

Objects can move from one category of lost to another. ‘Fucking vanished’ is a category, but believe it or not, a mutable one. Some things that I could swear after a vigorous, multi-day hunt have been taken by leprechauns do in fact show up. (‘taken by leprechauns’ is a whimsical name for ‘fucking vanished’). It is especially hard when something that feels retrievable shifts into the ‘permanently gone’ category.

Frequently losing things teaches you about attachment, sharpens intuition, and inspires resourcefulness in coming up with substitutes. Humility is involved. But those are topics for another time.

Let’s instead descend into my studio, which is really messy (also a topic for another time). Yesterday when I went downstairs to find some xerox color copies I’d gone to some trouble to make a few months back, I wasn’t sure how readily I would find them. That they were pretty much right where I’d thought they’d be felt like a gift.

There are about forty-five collages ready to be mounted to card stock. Then, at last, they will be SoulCollage cards.

Because I hate to measure and really suck at it, it took a good long while to mount just five of the collages. At five a day, I’ll need eight days to get through the pile. But guess what? After an especially demoralizing day of writing, the task actually satisfied. I took my time. I enjoyed working toward a goal with manageable and discrete steps — so unlike finishing a novel (am I finishing? is it a novel?)


Off to walk Finny, then back to my laptop (wish me a more productive day!)

  • (thank you for posting on FB Michelle ! Even though we get The New Yorker, I might have missed it)

Lost Orgasms or Zero Faith


Where do all the missed orgasms go? Do they stuff themselves into pelvic bones, later to afflict the unsatisfied with bursitis? Do they congregate in the shadows, behind the bureau, say, to become part of what haunts us in the half light when we are alone and already unsettled? Maybe they fly off like the geese that passed overhead this morning while I was walking the dog, barely visible in the fog, honking their lament.

Their ultimate destination ought to depend on how close they came to deliverance, so that the ones that never even stood a chance would go to one graveyard, while the ones that shunted off to the side seconds before blossoming into shuddering, clamping pleasure would go to another, presumably more exalted, resting place. The really near misses might properly be housed in a mausoleum, one lined with stone-carved lilies and angels. Wouldn’t it be nice to offer your disappointments a bouquet of flowers now and then? I would choose red roses, even if rock n’ roll cliché resided in every soft, perfumed fold.

The sorting of failed pleasure feels like a job for Pluto, that merciless lord of the Underworld. If you recall, he’s the guy who sucked Persephone down from a field of flowers where she had been skipping along in innocent glee, a mere handful of yards from her doting mother. What a way to lose your virginity! I’ll have to go back for clues. Are there any hints that Persephone grew to enjoy her year-long subjugation? Or maybe even that she enjoyed it right from the very first bloody, hymen-breaking start?

Maybe the collective missed orgasms sail down to the Underworld and settle in the young girl’s loins, giving her one thudding, yelping orgasm after another, so that in spite of being held captive by a foul-breathed master of cruelty with no capacity to care for her, she at least has that release – or dare I say — ‘fun’?

Probably unspent female pleasure serves no purpose whatsoever — either noble or trivial. And, think about it, if it could serve some greater aim than the simple satisfaction of its participant, why would it choose a story about rape, where the mere whiff of female enjoyment can be so easily misinterpreted by male listeners, the coercive ones that want to believe in their decency but shouldn’t?

All the skewed notions, why add fuel to the fire? On the other hand, why let certain malevolent others have power over the range of my inquiry?

And while we’re talking about women’s pleasure, how about the cinematic female orgasm? You know the one – the grinding mutual orgasm that takes four seconds and requires penetration only. It’s astonishing how ubiquitous it is. Here’s one of many versions: guy shoves lover up against wall while yanking up her skirt, enters her, pumps four or five times to much deep-throated moaning on her part, at which point they climax together. Four seconds, four or five thrusts of his member. To watch any screen for any amount of time gives the impression that there are lots of women going commando in black pencil skirts having way more fun than I do.

Just to be clear. I have fun. Okay?

I would give almost anything to see that improbably hot detective or that leggy, single mother who looks like she just stepped off the cover of Vogue, shove her lover back, look him square in the eye and ask with unfettered disdain, “Are you kidding me? That’s it?!”

You could call the cinematic four second female orgasm (with penetration only) a male orgasm with tits. But the better view is that the quick, ecstatic humping we see time and time again stands in as pure male fantasy, something akin to the letters published in Penthouse, which even as a fourteen year old babysitter scanning the text surreptitiously, I knew to be pure fiction.

Can you imagine the relief that would flood this planet if women came as predictability, quickly, and with as little reliance on circumstance as men did? In four seconds with penetration only, in other words? Like they do in the movies?

I know women have these kinds of orgasms, and some women have them routinely (and I hope I don’t need to point out that to assert as much would require obnoxious gloating and very personal revelations?) For the sake of discussion, let me say that at no time have I come in four seconds while being pushed up against a restaurant bathroom stall wearing a pencil skirt with no stockings or underwear on. The point isn’t whether these brief climaxes happen or not — I know someone who came while dining out and enjoying a plate of shrimp, for God’s sake — but why that’s all we ever see, time and time again… the one version that just happens to be congruent with male fantasy.

I’m reading a well-written debut novel that features a lot of sex. In chapter after chapter, we are treated to a whole range of ways to have it, to enjoy it, and to be hurt and baffled by it. The protagonist is a privileged, self-destructive twenty-something who wanders through the sordid bedrooms of S&M, but also lies down in a fragrant eucalyptus grove and comes three times while enjoying the great California outdoors. At the author’s reading in Cambridge, her introducer focused a bit on the self-destructive and violent parts in a way that obscured the more subtle experiences described. Leave it to a guy to fail to mention the female protagonist’s multiple orgasms or her bland and recurring let downs.

I wish I’d said, “You don’t have to be a wanton 20-something hell-bent on self destruction to be bewildered or disappointed by sex. Hello? Anybody?!”

Instead, I raised my hand and asked if she wrote with pen or keyboard.

There was some pretty gross shit in there. But still, I’d rather read a passage about a feckless young woman being enamored with the vulnerability of a man’s ass as he walks away from their bed, even if they just shared a violent interchange that I can’t relate to at all than see that god damned four second improbable climax on the screen again. The fact that the novel’s passage is so wholly, explicitly, and credibly told from a female perspective makes it food for the soul. Scene after scene produced feelings of recognition and I doubt that I am alone in this.

The dog I walk does not look up at the passing geese. More and more I’m seasonally confused – remind me – what time of year is it?! He tugs at the leash and lunges, hackles raised, bark, bark, barking his head off at other dogs – sometimes, not always, and never for the dog walker. It’s an at least twice daily reminder that life is difficult. This is the dog I got. This is the life I got.

The embroidered pouch slung across my shoulder once held coins for wending my way – sometimes the change exacted by the ferryman in order to cross the dark river, sometimes as shiny offerings for Demeter when she missed her daughter the most. Now it stinks of beef. I offer up hot dog chunks to the dog in hopes of rewiring his canine circuitry into something friendlier, more manageable, more normal. “Please god,” I say at least twice a week. That I have zero faith in our strategies – strategies paid for with bloody dollar bills, by the way – I can only hope has no impact on their efficacy.

Arriving home, I look out over the still misty ground to what remains of the now abandoned play structure. There, I can just make out the black, spray painted letters that spell out: ‘ZERO FAITH’. Probably scrawled during one of the boy’s passages through middle school. Could be a skateboard brand. Or a song. Probably also a declaration. It makes me wonder: does misery pass through the body’s code, along with hair color and shoe size? Please don’t answer, I already know.

img_2642Notes: This was written to an ‘object prompt’ in a writing class. My object was a black cloth zippered bag embroidered with flowers.

A lament is a bit like a rant in that it resorts to stylized exaggeration. A rant uses the lens of anger and irritation, while a lament is more elegiac. In other words, don’t take this as autobiography. It’s more like sharing a dream.

The novel referred to is, “Wreck and Order” by Hannah Tennant-Moore. I plan to post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon (and maybe here) and so I am ruminating about the novel. I haven’t quite finished, but can certainly recommend it. It is a stunning literary debut.

Finally, after reading this to my husband, he recommended not posting– not because it includes stuff about sex, but because it is so grim. Well, this may be unwise, but I trust all 35 of my readers to hold this a certain way.