Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Language Peddler

If I could only have the words themselves
not steer the vines that twine,
trimming the undergrowth into a manicured parade
of mildew rephrased to zest-forest green or some suchlike.

Seducing - their form alone, tricking into satisfaction
- of a stupefying frill with the soul
on the foot sole. Crackle-weary of treading
the sameness of someone else's daze.

Somewhen, the boyfriend said, having conjured
it on his own. A beat that pulses off its own accord,
violent and sweet, yanking me from side to side to
tumble-awake you.

So I can take a spot on the sun, among the
company of white linen sheets moist enough
to cool that thing you call a forehead.

Fall Sshh
Sun slides behind where suns go to doze
after the frolic. But now my arm doesn't
smell worth its own bottle anymore.

Breathing on it won't summon it either.

Water blinks on my window pane
Zigzagging every which way and
with it informs me

my favorite lady at the metro corner
won't come out today with buckets
filled with garden flicks for my
greedy-for-beauty eyes.

On Hold

(by anonymous)

I rang her line
and was put on hold
a month went by
and the recording told
to please stand by
we're working it out
'we appreciate
your patience
without a doubt'

weeks passed slowly
not a peep on the line
I wondered if it was worth it
taking this time
to wait by patiently
for someone who can't explain
what's going on inside her head
again and again

I decided to hang up
how could I have known
just as I was doing this
she came on the phone
she asked me kindly
if I'd mind holding
just a couple more weeks
while her world was unfolding

she's entitled to her process
I'm entitled to mine
she pushes me away
this is not the first time
her complex process
as best I could see
was working on making
much less of me
as part of her life
and part of her mind
on creating a construct
the less meaningful kind

So in this dilemma
after some thought
I hung up the phone
somewhat distraught
and as I pondered
what just occurred
I came to the notion
I couldn't be heard

I was put on hold
and then asked to listen
to a disturbing recording
an endless repetition
of confusing messages
cryptic and cold
my patience had ended
so I hung up the phone.


As I stood outside the house, a bottled-down stillness came over me. I caught a strong whiff of mold – sweetened somehow. Soon enough, the door swung open and out came my aunt in a silky red dress which sausaged her into shape.

The tint of that dress looked like blood that had been sitting there, coagulating. Before I could defend myself, I was impaled against those lumps of meat, soft and hot and flaccid. From inside the darkness that enveloped me, I heard a muffled, “Let me take a look at you!”

I felt my face yanked away from her breasts by her veiny hands as she did just that, she inspected my face, lifted up by the chin, then going for the cheek, pinched and shook it repeatedly, “Look at that, so adorable!”

There was no flow to her movements, they went from thing to thing in rapid jolts, breaking at random points. Like lightening, a new torrent of sentiment burst from her body and I received another clamoring round of kisses. Her tongue and mouth were soft and pliable like those of a dead fish. I closed my eyes for an instant, to swallow the nausea that rose with the murky cake I’d eaten earlier - it tasted of detergent and bugs - sending shivers up and around my whole body. I was also beginning to sweat profusely.

My aunt took out a crumpled handkerchief, flower-patterned over anemic pastels, and blew her nose - hard. When she was done, the bulb was livid and raw. In seeing the little wet beads on my face, she moved to bring that same cloth to it, but I caught her hand in time. She snickered at that, “Sorry, darling, I didn’t realise." My aunt’s house was a refuge where light didn’t enter. Between heavy, ornate furniture, gleamed the smiles of framed people, “important people,” they said.

My mother just sat there, looking at the pictures, her eyes languishing in one detail or another, totally content and oblivious to the torment I was having to endure for her sake. The woman's breasts were deep, two full sacks one could sink a hand in and pull out a gift, a jack-in-the-box of horrors. In blowing her nose, yet again, those sacks puffed further outwards, their sides bobbing up against me. I thought of native Indian women who slung their breasts back and over their shoulder, so they wouldn't get in the way.

I wanted to recommend the method to her. I then smelled garlic coming from the kitchen, garlic and something else, I didn’t know what, and that bothered me, as the two mingled, the garlic and the unknown ingredient, which together joined forces against me. Those big, fat, liquid eyes of my aunt’s were fixed on me too, they were laughing. They were amused! “So cuuute, and shy…” she said.

“Don’t touch me!” I heard myself say.

“Laura…” my mother chirped, warningly.

“Please don’t touch me. Please,” I implored.

Waving her hands up in the air with an “ I give up” gesture, she went towards my mother, who now sat before the piano, ready to dazzle with one of her five numbers routine.

“Ah, leave her. She’s tired,” and as I’d predicted, the first notes of Liszt’s Sonata in B minor invaded the room. It meshed with the garlic and the murky cake from earlier and my aunt’s sacks which bounced in triumphant abandon as they spread on the couch, prostrate and ready to listen. My eyes sought for something to reassure me, to calm or at least distract me.

I felt a little dizzy by then. My aunt’s breasts had done that, I wanted to scream “See what they’ve done to me!” I saw my face against the cupboard glass as the music, which I loved on certain days but not that day, conducted the room. I looked orange, ugly and greasy. The important people in the pictures grinned stupidly at me – every one of them.

Of course they did, they were friendly with my aunt. I had to leave this place! I had to go! I had to escape my murky doom! That it would be murky was certain, I had no doubt. The door, heavy, was not that hard to open. A tiny wave of wind and dust came in, lifting the curtains slightly, so I got out and thanks to the sonata, they didn’t notice me. The music followed as if guiding my movements. But I still ran, I ran as fast as I could while gulping fresh batches of air, stopping just long enough to remove my slippers, and kept going towards the river.

Behind me I envisioned that dust, the little that it was, breading my aunt thoroughly so that when she went into the kitchen, she’d be mistaken for an extra-extra large fillet and thrown into the skillet. Like bacon, she already came with the fat. At the hem of the river, I wiped my face off with the back of my hands. Finally! I sat with my feet skimming the water’s surface, and cupped my hands to grab as much as I could from it.

I needed to extinguish the rest of what was left of that sickening aftertaste of my aunt’s breasts and that warm saliva in the jar that was my mouth. Unable to contain myself, I vomited, my body away from the water, as all the repugnance resurged in me and from me. I could feel the wind bringing some of the vile bits up to my face, as if to force me to register what I was doing. I opened my eyes. Below, the water looked thick and strong and sure of itself. It also seemed held, its strength contained but barely, one thought away from an outpour.

My legs broke the surface to its cold, taut depths which pricked my body in a thousand points as I let myself in. It was then, and only then, that I began to feel better. I ducked my head in and swallowed a whole mouthful of clear river water. And in remembering I had been told not to do that, I did it again. The murky taste was now effectively gone. Turning to the longer stretch of the river, now calmly accepting me, I aligned my eyes to its line, now and then furrowed by the wind. I saw the multi-colored line clearly, uniting my sight to the water in an infinite clasp. The sun slipped through the clouds and fell like electric gold. The water had no breasts; it had wings instead. And suddenly, I felt something strong, funny even, blowing against me.

It was something intangible and certain coming from the water, from the water and from the taste of it on my tongue, and that came from me too. I felt calm, strong in a way I hadn't been before, ever in fact. Behind it, lay what mother had said yesterday. I brought my hands to the surface, and saw that the skin was now puckered – pruning, isn’t that what they said? More like raisins, I corrected. With a little jump, I lay back on the water, letting it catch me and prop me up as I floated in place, or so it seemed. I was still happy in that odd way. And it was then that it came to me and I understood that she was going to leave me to the river, to trust it to care for me. Officially, it would be that woman, that aunt, who would be doing it. But it was really the river.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I wish to tell you about road trips down country lanes, narrow ones, populated with sprinkling of flowers and people, over a lot, and I mean a lot, of greenery. Green hills rolling into one another, tightly clenched trees bristling, presiding over green fur. Crumbling cottages there are, seven-hundred-year-old structures some of them, and then a little up a ways, some new developments; lots with shiny prefab houses that look so neat, colorful, and cheap to be made of mere matchsticks; wouldn't be surprised to hear they were. Otherwise the scenery goes on, uninterrupted, until we enter a village with either the triangular-roofed houses or the mainstay one-story boxes with the double windows, always those double windows. For the winter, brutal here.

Down these country roads we travel once or twice a week in the summer, some times listening to music, some 1970s classical-experimental Slovak band, low-key rock, or nothing at all. Most often nothing at all but the scenery's sounds. All the unseen cacophony of summer life with its insects and murmurings of the earth. A tractor whirring or a hose we encounter maybe, manned by a suspicious or indifferent potbellied man. Suspicious if they were to catch your eye peering.

Women in muumus, wearing socks over sandals, with a water hose bent over the geraniums or other perennial variety.

Soothing, these drives. Mind succumbing to the movement, being pulled and lulled by it. Rarely do words pass between us, and if they do, it's something so commonplace, an item of a to-do list perhaps, that we just nod or grunt, uh-huhing each other in acknowledgement.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Some Time Ago - Now Here Again


I see the man whose body has become a rusty mechanism, orchestrated to pick up the mail from the box. Here he is, out in front of his suburban home in one of those houses that could have four rooms or fourteen, one of those boxes of varying sizes each inside the other and capped by a larger box that holds them all in. The man’s every gesture, reaching, stopping, reaching again until the body follows suit.

This stop animation scene arrests me and I can’t help but watch, but then he notices me noticing him, and he scowls. I say hello, to which he says nothing but looks on as I pass ( I imagine), though my back is to him and my stride already zooming towards the park. Before that, pot holes brimming with days’ old rainwater. After the rain, sun is almost milky, light.

I go past the little wooden footbridge where an elderly couple are coming my way, the woman’s eyes are bright underneath her white vizor, sparkling almost defiantly, holding on, latching onto me as she says hello. Hello, sure, hello, this time I’m the one pulled into saying it. I keep going and take a left on the first path after the one skimming the road.

That last woman’s all-white and powder blue ensemble, the undershirt peeking out from a sweatshirt, registers in the afterthought. Probably a present from visiting relatives, purchased in one those seaside gift shops in Anchorage or Biscay Bay, I figure. I am already envisioning my route with its tall oaks and their petite white-petaled neighbors when I run into a roadblock: a puddle the size of a lake. Figuring all similar trails in the opposite direction is likely to present the same problem, I run-a-jog back a ways, reaching the paved, main park road. I have only been here a little while when a more amenable spot reveals itself at the seams of the creek, a foot-sized clearing leading to a cleft, a basin where the water takes respite from its gushing gusto downstream.

I stand there for a moment taking in this little miniature beach, and moved by the gentle grace of it, sit down. I sit staring for a minute, days’ long fight receding with the water, letting it all wash away. Not a worry on my mind, only the teal water and damp grass that smells of earthy freshness. I pick up a leaf, and decide, hey, this is a good time as any to meditate. I think those thoughts, there, wondering if the grammar is alright, grammar being on my mind now that I am editing and about to fall back to teaching English again – my stand-by career. And there I turn my shoulders, back-and-forth, so gently I can’t believe it. I’m slicing the leaf in strips, feeling great joy in the act, exorcising discomfiting troubles while leavening it with the optimism of thoughts to come.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

From Finger tips of Night Runs

I squeezed death with fingertips

Pressing and twirling

Grind of miniature life

For the trespass of walking across my glasses

Peppermint lingers – the surprise.