A spark set to the sidewalk, her feet ignite
like flint in the dark, footsteps
a blaze of stars and friction, leaving
a trail of tinder and trepidation.
(Freedom comes slowly
because it must be taken.)
Somewhere, the echoes
begin to die down, and the only other illumination
is the moon, with its Sandman allegiance,
edging an infinite path, where the dream-people
don’t notice a single woman on the run.
All the night has given her
is a bulk of shadow, refuge for flight
and the day’s indifference, a pinch of flame
that gives no warmth, the luster of each footfall spark
nearly drowned out by the wind,
but still, she runs.
The whole landscape looms, ominous
in the dark, an absolute antique
that will turn new when the sun
starts to sing its early morning hymn,
calling the birds, changing the eyes
from sleeping to sleepy, and wrestling
the leaves to the ground,
to cover the consequences
of flames given to the night.
The Woman –
she will stop, crook an ear
to what’s behind her, Babylon
in all its glory, where life springs up
out of green grass and keeps the blue moon
almost always at bay –
the Lady will return to Babylon
but she is the Lady no more.
On the menu, from scratch:
- string beans with seasoned bread crumbs
- spicy mushrooms in red sauce
- candied yams
- mashed potatoes
- stuffed mushrooms
- a turkey that requires two days of cooking
The wound count:
- One burned finger
- One slightly sliced finger
- Various scratches from fending off the dog (SWEET JESUS, I can’t tell you how many times he nearly burned himself on the oven)
Hours Spend Standing/Cooking So far: Upwards of ten hours
Hours of Sleep Lost:
- One. I woke up an hour earlier than I had to. Oops.
A Meal That Tastes like My Mom’s Cooking, with Lots of Family:
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!
Thanksgiving has always been a big deal in my house. When I was little, we would make the crazy trek to visit both sets of grandparents – having breakfast with one and dinner with the other. Breakfast usually involved my grandmother’s awesome corn muffins, which are still the best I’ve ever had. Dinner had pretty much every kind of yummy food you can imagine, with a few of our personal traditions thrown in there – antipasto, stuffed artichokes, and chocolate pudding for dessert.
Of course, things don’t always go according to plan – like the time my aunt forgot to defrost the pumpkin pie (which might be the reason we switched to pudding). Or the time that my grandmother ate all the stuffed artichokes (one of my favorite dishes that she made just for me) and had to make more – the night before Thanksgiving.
This year, I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner, which means I’m a small whirlwind of chopped veggies and cleaning products – although not in the same instance. That’s not sanitary. Roughly ten people will be descending for Turkey Day, and I have my mother’s disease of Have Too Much, instead of Not Enough. I’m fairly certain there will be enough food to feed a small army of really hungry ninjas – which is totally fitting, because I’m sure someone will get hopped up on sugar and enact a ninja version of the Tasmanian devil.
Of course, cooking for that many people means I started yesterday. I even had Julie and Julia on for a little while. I managed not to let the puppy get in my way, but it was not for his lack of trying. Today, I have brownies to cook, stuffing to make, yam sauce to put together – and that last one is a trip.
Last year, I read the recipe wrong, and it took me an entire decade to get the sauce to thicken. It was a circle in Hell that Dante forgot.
Live and learn, my friends – and try not to drop the turkey on the floor like one of my aunts did, while I was on the phone with her, many years ago. Still one of the funniest things ever.
In the past month, I entered a contest. It was not something in my general wheelhouse — it was sci-fi writing. It was flash fiction. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve read much sci-fi since Ender’s Game, but the genres so often blur and overlap. I have a slightly difficult time telling certain kinds of fantasy writing from sci-fi. It completely boggles my mind.
But that’s not the point. I wrote two very different stories for that contest and only submitted one. The one I didn’t submit was the weaker of the two. Since I can’t fnd any current use for it, I’ve decided to share it with you all.
The boy is dreaming, again. He’s been asleep ever since the Accident. But no one talks about that. It was, they said, the end of the world.
Me? I don’t think so. I think it is the beginning of the end, which is a very different thing. It means there’s still time. Still hope. Some way to stop the madness.
But the boy is dreaming, again. And we are all very frightened. There are only twenty seven of us, now. We started out with fifty, even. But the wolves have become bolder.
The sun didn’t go out like everyone claimed it would. There were scientists who insisted that the world would end in fire. Others, ice. The truth is that it began to decline into darkness. It wasn’t nature that did it. It was us. We were too careless. We wanted too much. Someone crashed a rocket or a bomb into the sun. I don’t remember. It all happened so fast.
Now, it’s dark and freezing. We live by firelight. Bonfires. No one can tell when it’s day. We don’t even keep calendars anymore.
And the boy, he dreams. But how can he dream in the middle of this? I don’t know. I wish I did. Perhaps he’s more resilient than the rest of us. I haven’t been able to tell him, though, about his parents. About what…happened. My fiancée was with them. They’d gone out to find food. Only one of them returned. And she had died very quickly.
The wolves have become bolder. Still, the boy is dreaming. Tossing in his warming bag, edged close to the fire. He looks so peaceful. Serene. Full of hope.
I don’t think I am full of much hope. I don’t…
It doesn’t matter. He shouldn’t have to live through this. He should be able to play and run – not worry about what lingers in perpetual shadow.
It would be a kindness to end it. He wouldn’t have to suffer. He’d be able to dream forever.
I remember once, when I was little (under seven years old), I was upset about something. It was probably something particularly inane, like a missing Barbie doll or feeling ignored for whatever childish reason.
I packed a basket with clothing and told my mother (tearfully) that I was running away. This basket didn’t have a lid. It seemed huge (how would I have carried it down the stairs, without tripping over myself?). And I’m fairly sure that it was winter, and I wasn’t able to get my snow suit on without some assistance. (It was hot pink and AWESOME.)
So, in the middle of winter, armed with a basket of what that probably consisted of: my Mary Lou Retton t-shirt, underwear, my treasured blanket, and jeans – I threatened to run away from home. I didn’t. But I remember feeling, passionately, like I should’ve been. In retrospect, I should admit that I had a flare for the dramatic, and I was the biggest ham since Green Eggs. (Note to self: burn all childhood videos, especially the one of me singing to the dog.)
As an adult, or a supposed adult (I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll never quite grow up – and I’m okay with that), I still have those feelings, sometimes.
It’s an entertaining idea, really. A frightening, potentially brave, decidedly crazy fantasy. Pack up the car, or a suitcase, and just…go. Be a new me. Be somewhere else. Just go on a different journey. Start over. Start from scratch. Leave everything behind.
That last bit is what stops me. Because, as much as I’m somewhat disappointed in certain aspects of humanity (or lack thereof), I don’t like leaving people behind. If it were just me, though – I might actually do it. I might just disappear. But as promising a notion as that seems, in reality it is a rather daunting task.
I think, sometimes, we all need to escape. To remove ourselves from situations. To take a break. To unplug. To be unreachable for a while. I’ve been entertaining that thought for a while and there always seems to be a reason NOT to.
But I think there’s moment where all reasons transform into excuses. That is a dangerous thing.
So, it isn’t the New Year, yet, but I’m going to start now. I’m going to stop making excuses. I’m going to give myself permission to run away now and then. I’m going to make a list of the things I can change – and do my best to forget what I can’t.
I may not pack a basket full of clothing, sure. But it’s a start. And I think I’ll begin with watching lots of DVDs today. If I can convince the Dog to sleep. Or chew something other than my feet. Or my pants. Or the wall. (He’s adorable, I swear.)
You never realize how trivial your brain is, until you can’t fall asleep at three am. Thoughts emerge from under rocks of Shame and Mundane and Excitement and Panic. These thoughts range from the banal What did I do? to Did I turn the light off downstairs? to Tomorrow’s my birthday! to What am I doing with my life?
When I can’t sleep, it’s as if my brain goes into hyperdrive, cataloguing and parsing out everything that a) is wrong, b) could go wrong, or c) I’ve done wrong. It’s a smorgasbord of anxiety and ridiculousness. In the middle of the night, all those little worries become insurmountable demons, monsters with teeth and terrifying What-Ifs. What-ifs, I know, will kill you dead if they can – paralyze you until you can’t even breath without feeling them in the air. I try not to deal in them, because they don’t help.
But the Evil Nighttime Brain? Loves What-ifs. It loves to indulge in missing, concluding, blaming, fearing, and feeling an extreme sense of OH.MY.GOD – what is wrong with you? Because in the dark, it’s always so easy to blame ourselves. It’s so easy to give into the doubt and the worry. And whatever else seems to lurk in the shallows and recesses of our Black Lagoon-like minds.
Of course, I always marvel at how absolutely ridiculous my brain is when I can’t sleep. Occasionally, I’ve had an internal night monologue that goes like this:
Man I don’t like clowns. I wonder if it’s because of It, or that episode of Buffy with the nightmares. There was a clown in that. But there was also the time what’s his name got hit by a clown [true effin’ story, btw]. I mean, you only really see clowns at the circus, so I can just avoid the circus. But the have snow cones. I love them, damn it.
At which point I realize that not only am I NOT sleeping, I’ve having a discussion with myself about clowns and snow cones. Clowns, btw, are not cool. I am like Booth from Bones. (Remember when he shot the clown on top of the ice cream truck?)
I don’t know why worries seem to pile up at night. Perhaps it’s because we, as people, tend to push them away during the day, in favor of getting whatever we can/need to done. Then, when we finally give ourselves a break and try and get some rest – we can’t push that stuff anyway, anymore.
You know that Alanis Morrissette song? “Did you think about your bills? Your ex? Your deadlines?” That is what happens. I think about all that stuff and more, when everything is finally silent. I know this happens to other people. We are a nation of people who cannot sleep, because of a thousand reasons (bad economy, ahoy!). So, people take pills or drink too much.
We think, foolishly, that there’ s a magic cure for everything. Take a pill, and the bad things in the world go away. Instead of dealing with the issues, we’re just putting them off. Like switching off a light. Poof – it’s gone.
But it’s really not. It’s still there. And whenever you’re vulnerable or in crisis, the Doubts come out. So, I suppose the moral of this little story (not that I am one to speak of things like that. I’m not Aesop) is to drag things out into the light, when you’re better able to battle them. Don’t back away. Don’t keep biting your tongue. Don’t take a magic pill to solve your problems. (But, by all means, pick up a few magic beans. I’ve always wanted to see a giant and a golden harp.)
Don’t let your Evil Nighttime Brain get the better of you. Someone, please put that on a coffee mug, won’t you? I think another cup is certainly in order.
Who killed the leaves?
They do not say. The sit silent
on the ground, scattered like stars,
a hurricane of colors, a small reminder
of life before death.
The sunflowers have gone, shriveled
and shepherded into shadow,
and if you ask where they were,
few people will remember enough
to tell you – the forget-me-nots
will simply snicker in their graves.
The air now feels like winter, a gale
of frost and chilled steel, winds
squealing about like a shroud, icing
the river, slowing the blood,
and numbing the marrow.
Who killed the leaves?
I do not know. But all the people stop
and stare, eyeing the transformation,
eyeing the wreckage, questioning the crow,
the pale grass, the unmourned
moment where life became death,
and a last chance was lowered into the ground,
heaped with dirt, and left
where the bell tolls in October.
can reason it out, expose the earth
for what it holds, surprising
who remains in the Garden