Saturday, January 31, 2015

Book Review: "Olivia"

Olivia: A NovelOlivia: A Novel by Dorothy Strachey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


"Olivia" is the story of a teenage girl away at boarding school, and her intense feelings for one of the two women who run it. In some (good) ways, this reminds me of Nevada Barr's "Bittersweet" and Sylvia Brownrigg's "Pages For You", which are both favorites of mine, and both concern girls whose first loves are (somewhat) older women.

First love is gorgeous and awful and all-consuming and unforgettable; Olivia finds all that out first hand. Don't be misled...there is no sex and very little physical contact in this story, but the emotions burn red hot. It has the feel of a classic tragedy, and also of a really good YA novel of today.

The story is loosely based on Marie Souvestre's Allenswood Academy, attended by both the author and Eleanor Roosevelt, among many other notables of the first half of the 20th century. But this is not about anyone, really, except Olivia and Mlle. Julie. There were times when I had to set it down and just let a scene wash over me. It's very smoothly written, full of heart, joy and sadness; it simply blew me away. Highly recommended.



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Midget At Large

Thievery comes naturally to you; you like it--
don't imagine I missed that smirk.
Yes, you better turn tail and run!
(or will those charms always work?)
Rotten rat--
always grin and tease like that--
Young one,
so adorable and sneaky smart.
You won me over, you little bandit--
puppy love from the start.
_______

for Flash 55 at Real Toads. I took on the added form challenge as well. This poem is for my little wild girl Skittles, who cannot read, but what the heck. She's a puppy!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Neptune's Time Share

Neptune sold his time share.
Now he runs a riding stable in upstate New York.
Venus can't pull off those young fashions anymore
without looking a little desperate,
and Janus got a gig as a doorman in Miami--
he can scan both sides of the street for a cab.
 
Diana and Egeria are lavender girls, if you know what I mean;
best friends, my ass.
Survey says, Vulcan and Vesta can't keep burning it up forever,
but somebody's got to make up for Minerva,
always studying for another Master's.

Remember when we used to chant:
Boys go to Jupiter
to get more stupider;
girls go to Mars
to get more candy bars.

Ceres is knocked up again.
I guess going vegan didn't slow her down a bit.
And Apollo, wellll, Apollo....
who knew he could lie like that?
He had us all fooled and now he'll do a dime up at Jackson.

I bought Neptune's time share
from the silly fucks who got it from him.
Now I get my two weeks,
but it won't be like it was when your skin was dark and shining.

The lake is frozen,
you spun some shit about having to work,
and so what do I do now--
now that I know that even an off-season goddess
is just another dumb girl after all?
________

for Hannah's challenge at Real Toads. "Lavender girls" (and "twilight girls") was pulp novel code for lesbians, back in the day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I Was Old When I Fell In Love

I was old when I fell in love.
You should have seen the local teenagers--
so respectful as they removed my heavy groceries,
my shoulder bag
and my house keys.

My blood had gone sluggish in my veins,
like the biddy who holds up the drug store line,
blindly picking ancient coins from a tiny purse.
Is that a penny or a dime?
Systolic or diastolic?
How much was it, again?

Oh go ahead, laugh.
I was old when I fell in love,
like the bird that goes bright after blundering into a window--
red as a June rose, 
sliding slowly down the pane,
as elegant as a silent-era diva expiring in the fourth reel.

And my beloved?
She bakes, and goes up in the trees 
searching the branches all morning long.
In late afternoon when I begin to nod,
she tells me there is a future for everyone.
Then she offers me cake,
fluff filled with holes,
made to rise with crossed fingers, oil, and eggs.
_______

Monday, January 26, 2015

Wandering Eye

How could I have a wandering eye,
when mine are always demure,
downcast,
almost falling into my tea like sugar cubes?

I claim nothing;
no opinion, no item, no gesture
as my own--
I borrowed this hat,
these gloves,
this face with its serenely docile expression.

However, underneath 
like a forgotten marker,
is my skull, twinned with socket-blanks
and the moths that emerge and expand by wing and instinct.

Relax, dear Master.
Everyone admires your wool suits,
your silk cravats,
and your cashmere sense of entitlement.

On the other hand,
no one sees or suspects the devouring flutter I unleash from concealment
without a word,
without fanfare,
without blinking.
_______

for Magpie #255 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

X Factor

Don't fret, little one,
over what doctors or devils say.

They don't know how strong my angels rise
at sight of your 
careless
smile.
_____

for Play It Again Toads #13. I did a Twitter poem (140 characters.) 

The image was found on weheartit.com

My puppy has some internal problems. Mommy's gonna make it right.

 

 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hay-elp!

Hi, I'm Skittles. I've been dognapped by a crazy poet lady and held here for months now! I only have a few dozen toys, and sometimes she even stops petting me. Now today I heard her talking on the phone about a trip to see the doggy doctor. Someone save me! Put my picture on a milk carton! Helllppp!

Love,

Skittles the puppy

Friday, January 23, 2015

Fuck a buncha poetry...

...it's time to find out your Queen name! (Guys, you get to serve us. Isn't that enough?)

My Queen name is Grayshades the Virginal. Well of course it is. What's yours?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bon Appetit

"Marlon Brando loves dark women, because he can't see them." --Jane, mental patient

"Children are the only ones who blush." --Lou Reed

The poissonier said to Marcel Proust,
"It isn't always about you.
I've got my own fish to fry."

Nemesis said to Narcissus,
"Get over yourself.
Eat those feewings, and stay out of the water.

Mott the Hoople met a frog and a local beauty for lunch,
and Pharaoh Menes came all the way from Memphis.
The menu was all-natural,
but none of them much liked being told to eat shit.
_______

70 words exactly (excepting the quotes at the top) for Words Count.



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Currently Trending Obscenities

I have been wondering,
are you losing interest in me?

Does the light lose interest in the day?
And if I say
things like that out loud, people go wtf?
What wacky shit did she just say?

There isn't a flower in the garden
that blooms all the time.
And if I write
shit like that, people go wtf?
Wtf is wrong with Shay?

A girl can line up her jewels in a box
or her trash at the curb.
And if I think
shit like that, then I take out my raven-covered book
and lay word upon word upon word.

Still, what I really want to know
is, are you losing interest in me?
Will the moon drop from the sky,
without a word to the stars?

If it's true--
If you are--
don't you know that I will wrap myself around myself 
and say wtf, oh jesus, wtf,
oh, oh, oh my heart.
______

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Worm In Seal Skin

I'm a book worm in seal skin,
Gladys on the half shell,
exiting the surf wearing a long wool skirt,
a smart jacket,
librarian glasses,
and an antiquarian hat.

(I meant to trip in my high button shoes.
I meant to do that.)

So, now, come out from the stacks, you.
Bring me a rose
and state your business.

Yes, yes. I'm the most beautiful woman
that you've ever spotted behind a reference desk.
Your heart is mine,
to catalog and shelve,
and so forth and so on. I've heard it all before.

Do something different.
Throw your electronic gadgets in the trash.
Do an interpretive dance around the safety cones
which mark the wet spot on the floor.
Then,
lie down with me there,
play with my hair and read to me your own poem
about having to be lashed to the microfiche reader,
so that you won't throw your life away
for love of my song.

Wrap me in a net and slide the chopsticks from my head.
Check me out, Padawan.
Get lost in me, as in a book, or Old Briney.
If you whisper the correct call number, I will sigh
--in that way you just knew all librarians can sigh--
and stay seven years with you,
getting on top,
making spot-on recommendations,
and organizing your special collections like nobody ever has before.

Or, you can stand there gaping,
and I'll slide back into the surf as if I had never existed at all,
here and gone,
leaving just my hat ribbon floating in the foam.
_______ 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Aztecs

"If there are Aztecs in the hall,
lock the door
and hide your heart."

Such were the final writings of Anne-April Prilly
in 1967.

From that point on,
she did not write.
From that point on,
she seemed to have taken her own advice--
gazing blankly at the babies her friends continually had,
and failing to make the required noises.
"What about it?" she would say,
turning away and folding her arms
when offered an infant to exclaim over.

In 1967,
Aztecs could have been mistaken for hippies.
A search of Anne-April's hallway revealed nothing,
save for a newspaper, 
rolled up like a stethoscope on the parquet floor.

Through the unfortunate 70s and on into the 80s,
Anne-April remained unmoved.
Between her lungs, she tried keeping a sugar bowl,
but it was no use--
she was only hounded by collectors
who wanted complete sets, and not just the incidentals.

She also tried a plastic bear containing real clover honey,
but, nestled within Anne-April's warmthless bosom,
the honey spoiled
despite all assurances.

Finally, in 2006, Anne-April returned home,
using a skeleton key to get in.
She opened windows, bought art prints,
and even resumed writing. 
She tried to find her old friends, 
so that she could exclaim, if belatedly, over their children,
but the children were grown and scattered,
the friends wary, with medical alert devices around their necks
as if at any moment they might drop dead.

Naturally, Aztecs appeared once again in Anne-April's hallway.
Such dogged creatures!
She cracked the door and crooked a finger at one shirtless savage.
"In here, sailor," she said,
letting her robe slip off her shoulders.

She was old by then, but with angry gods to satisfy,
the Aztec wasn't sweating the details.
At least she had done her nails, fixed her hair.
Still, it was a dirty trick what she did next, snatching back her heart
with her last bit of strength.

Cradling it like a baby,
with bright red blood running down her forearms,
Anne-April was just glad to have found the thing she'd lost;
So glad, in fact, that she kissed the astounded illiterate brute
and meant it.
______

 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The City Of Ecstatic Kitsch

for James

"There is a lit candle inside every girl,"
and other such cornball stuff
swirled themselves up out of your Courvoisier
under a neon flamingo
who kindly took our confession,
pink all over
from the things she heard.

For you, love,
I burn bayberry, then sandalwood, then sweet apple.
For you,
though I am sober and you are gone,
I jealously guard this gorgeous little flame.
_____

For Real Toads mini-challenge.

 When I was young, I had a platonic but marvelous connection with a man who was like my other half before he simply went off the grid and disappeared. Anywhere we went, if just one of us showed up, everybody asked where the other one was.

In the following video, the interpolated lyric is "Va Pensiero" (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) by Giuseppe Verdi (the composer, not the kitten!).

 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Stymphalian Birds

for KJS

Zeus,
reduced to a fairy story,
his powers a parlor trick,
is told a joke by the Stymphalian Birds,
themselves now kept by old ladies who clip coupons
and attend Mass on Wednesday,
scattered like matrix dots around the pews.

Zeus laughs,
frothing around his too-fat lips.
This froth falls as snow flakes, here,
on the shoulders of our wool coats,
colored charcoal and navy blue.
Isn't that just like a man
to leave a mess?
And why this place, this park, this January dusk?
Why us?

"Stop bitching, sweetheart," you tell me,
turning to face me, slow as a blizzard cloud.
You place one black-gloved hand in my pocket,
the other over my heart,
and kiss me quiet as midnight.

"I want a Stymphalian Bird," I whisper,
later,
in your ear,
my tongue as careless as grandma's Siamese.
"You have one," you say to me.
It's true,
and isn't that just like a woman
to love such hard sharp feathers,
trusting her heart to a matchstick nest
balanced in a tinder tree?

Zeus,
you has-been, you local character,
boring the birds right out of the sky--
behold my darling, your daughter, your headache from the start--
with beak of bronze, bolts of fire,
and her pretty owl--
my heart.
________

for Fireblossom Friday at Real Toads.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Beauty of God

madmen in masks
suicide bombers
sunday saints
gay bashers
excluders
killers
liars.

my own life out of balance, too.

a spur of the moment stop,
no one else in the sanctuary,
I considered Christ on his cross,
poinsettias in profusion below his wounded feet.

the peace
and beauty
of God came into me
and it felt like love,
like respite,
like hope.

all motherless creatures will understand
why I cried, as a person can sometimes do,
when undone by the touch of silent kindness.
_______ 


 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mexican Poet

You lay the Mexican poet down between us
on the fading blue moon and stars of our overwashed sheets.
You told me, open as a new bottle of wine,
how you loved him,
how he wrapped his words around your heart
like a morning glory vine around a nested stinger.

I should have listened to the skinny about bi women--
they will always leave you twice.
There is a reason why
sun and moon rarely share the sky,
and when they do, it is always in half-light--
that darling of killers, clergy, and affected stand-in bullshitters.

I know it was just a book,
just a moment,
just translated soul settling inside our skins,
turning them to sandpaper. 
The real blame belongs with my jar of hoarded scorpions,
scattered in our hair,
blooms on two brittle garlands lovely in any language
but never meant to last the night.
______

for Real Toads mini-challenge.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Lies I Tell Myself

Born to make up stories,
here's one I told myself
last night
so as not to cry,
because
crying upsets my new puppy.

I told myself whoppers
just as if I were a country rube;
stuff about wooden porches,
citronella torches,
and a '64 Pontiac painted custom blue.

I'm old
and will just get more so;
any warm body I'm likely to touch,
lay down with me a good long while ago.
But Goddess bless lies,
cos Jesus loves a little yarn.

So I told myself
--on a particularly lonely night--
--so as to spare puppy any perplexity--
that it was sweet July
and a baby blue beauty had just come for me up the gravel way.

I was about to say
that the driver, with her arm stretched lazy across the wheel,
was Emmylou;

but no.
I made it better.
She was you.
_______

For Corey at Real Toads. He said to write about your first car, but mine was just a nondescript hand-me-down on its last legs, so I have written about something else, but still a car. I don't think Corey will take away my lily pad for this small infraction, will he?

 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Fix Was In !

Darling readers, I have something to talk to you about which may shock you. No, I'm not referring to Mama Zen's lesbian experimentation while attending Bryn Mawr in the 80s. Curve magazine has pretty much covered that, don't you agree?




Let me begin with a confession: I have been dabbling with watching NFL football. I know, you thought I was better than that. I'm sorry. But, here in Detroit we have certain traditions: big American cars, Thanksgiving Day football games, blight, corruption, and losing. So, every Thanksgiving,  I watch the Lions out of a sense of civic duty. Then I go back to compiling collections of haiku. 

However, this year, the Lions won. I think it did something to my brain. In any event, I kept watching. I watched as they rolled to mighty victories over a series of dispirited also-rans, and I watched as they lost a game at Green Bay for the division title. (Why is there a team in Green Bay? Where the hell IS Green Bay?) Ever the lady, I made no unkind remark about announcer Joe Buck's absurd green and yellow knee pads. Further, I admired how he was able to call the entire game despite keeping Aaron Rodgers' long bomb in his mouth the whole time. Linda Lovelace was nothing but an amateur. 

But I digress.

What I want to tell you about is the game after that. The playoff game (!) between our beloved Lions and the host Dallas Cowboys, whose fans are mostly a backward, inbred group who vote almost exclusively Republican. Indeed, New Jersey governor Chris Christie was there, jumping up and down like ten Tom Cruises, and bro hugging anyone who wasn't nailed down. I should have realized right then that things would not be on the up and up.

The Lions built a 20-7 lead. They could have won. They should have won. But some funny things happened on the way to the next round. Fishy things.

With Detroit needing a first down to keep possession and put away the ridiculous Cowboys, a fine young man named Mathew Stafford stepped back to pass. Up went the ball, hurtling toward its intended target. But then, a Cowboys defender leaped upon and climbed the Detroit receiver like a Family Values congressman on a Bangkok whore. This miscreant pulled the receiver's underwear up over his head and then spun it around backwards like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Finally, he stuck a "kick me" sign on his back and tripped him. Quite rightly, the official threw a flag, signaling pass interference. The penalty was announced, the yardage marked off. But then, an official dressed entirely in Cowboys fan gear emerged from the stands and picked up the flag, mumbling something about "it wasn't that bad." He then awarded the Cowboys the ball, a hundred thousand dollars, and a Pulitzer Prize. Even Joe Buck's jaw dropped in astonishment. 

But that's not all! Last week at Green Bay (Come on...it's a made-up place, right?), Lions' star Nadonkeykong Suh dared to step on the precious, fragile, namby-pamby girly legs of Aaron Rogers. Joe Buck immediately fined him 70,000 dollars! But in the Cowboys game, Mr. Suh was tackled, relieved of his wallet, and dynamited into oblivion by a Cowboys' lineman, while the Dallas quarterback, sitting in an armchair, tossed a fourth down completion en route to a game-winning touchdown, and nothing was called at all

One last thing. Immediately following the final play, the offending referee was picked up by Chris Christie, driving a limousine with steer horns affixed the the hood. One would hope that the league would at least make some kind of pretense of fairness. That the referee's seeing eye dogs would not be wearing Dallas hoodies. Oh well. Call me bitter. At least there is one small comfort for me...

Now the Cowboys have to go to Green Bay, wherever the hell that is.   

Sunday, January 4, 2015

How much is....

...that puppy in the window?

Sillies, Skittles isn't for sale at any price!

Motion

"It ain't the meat, it's the motion" --Maria Muldaur

"All the lazy dykes
cross-armed at The Palms
their legs astride their bikes
indigo burns on their arms" --Morrissey

"Desire is a powerful thing",
that's what the lady said
from her hospital bed.

They had to re-break the bone
to re-set it.
As for the bike, forget it.

Another thing: no more beget or begat.
She woke up a dog,
now meet the cat.

These days, she in-line skates
with a lovely
woman-fine sway.
_____

For Flash 55 at Real Toads.

A twist on Kerry's selected phrase "Man, you gotta go," this is based on a documentary I saw years ago, about a transgender woman, a former macho hockey player, who couldn't face her own inner reality until she was injured in a motorcycle accident. Now she in-line skates and is the picture of a woman comfortable in her own body. You go, girl.

 


Book Review: "Heroes & Villains"

Heroes And Villains: The True Story Of The Beach BoysHeroes And Villains: The True Story Of The Beach Boys by Steven Gaines

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Like so many others, I grew up listening to the Beach Boys on the radio. I liked their songs, but as a grade schooler, I had no idea what a Little Deuce Coupe might be. (Still not sure!) But, over time, I really came to love their famous hits. Again like so many others, I sort of thought of them as "surfing Doris Days", as Bruce Johnston summed up the public's view of the group, as quoted in this book. Guess again.

The Beach Boys were three brothers, Brian and the late Dennis and Carl Wilson, joined by cousin Mike Love and also Alan Jardine. Their father, Murry, is revealed in this book as having been a real piece of work, a demanding, demeaning, meddlesome, narcissistic nightmare, who loved music, but was crazy hard on his sons.

The oldest son, Brian, was not only a brilliant songwriter and producer (though he usually needed help with lyrics from Mike Love and others), but is the amazing voice with the fantastic range. However, he is also a casualty of his family's dysfunction, drugs, rock n roll excess, and mental illness.

The middle brother, Dennis, had the looks, but until later in the band's career, not so much musical ability. (He was the drummer, not even holding his sticks in the usual way.) He was charming, sexy, and generous to a fault, but was perhaps the most scarred by father Murry's machinations. Dennis was quite definitely a drug addict and alcoholic, and almost certainly a sex addict as well. He died in a diving accident, or perhaps let himself drown, beneath the empty berth where his beloved boat Harmony had once been kept. By then, Dennis had been married and divorced many times, was homeless and penniless, and had fallen about as far as a soul can do.

Singer Mike Love was a man dedicated to meditation and Eastern religion, who also beat on his wives and had on stage fights with Dennis Wilson.

Nonetheless, this troubled group of men created some of the most memorable, catchy, feel-good music ever recorded. Rolling Stone magazine ranks their album "Pet Sounds" second only to the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper" on their list of the hundred top albums of all time.

As far as the book itself in concerned, once I got into it a little ways, I found it very hard to put down. It *is* dated, having been written in the mid-80s and then reprinted, so it doesn't even include any mention of the band's late-career smash "Kokomo", or anything about the death of Carl Wilson in the 90s, but even so, I heartily recommend it to anyone with any interest in the band's music or in cautionary tales about damaged genius, the 60s, or how the creation can be perfect even if the creator is not. 



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Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Cat Who Spoke

Missus Doctor Figg-Millett was dusting her husband's study,
dusting, in fact, the skeleton of a re-articulated cat,
when, without really thinking about it,
she complained aloud about not having a staff.

"Fuck you," said the fleshless feline.
"I have no staff either, and it was quite a useful one.
Look at me now. How can I love? Eat? Spray?
Your husband is an idiot.
All humans are idiots.
They value the branch but burn the leaves,
prize the package but throw away the contents.
So, fuck you and the good doctor, too."

Cats rarely mince words.

Doctor Figg-Millett arrived home from his practice to find
Missus Doctor Figg-Millett had taken to her bed.
"Are you ill?' he inquired uncertainly from the doorway.
"I want a cat," she replied.
"Nonsense. Cats shed."
"Fuck you," said Missus Doctor, shocking him with the unwonted curse word.
Then she added, "I want a lover,
and some opium. Maybe even an automobile."

Cats and women have often been seen as similar.

Doctor Figg-Millett hoped that some broth and a cessation
from reading novels might ease his wife's malaise,
but as the days passed, she shat in the potted palm,
and destroyed the curtains in trying to climb them.
One afternoon, she gave herself a climax,
then stared at her fingers in astonishment.
She even remarked that women certainly deserved the franchise,
and that's when Doctor Figg-Millett had had enough.

How he fell down the stairs is anybody's guess.
No one really credited Missus Doctor's claim
that a cat had tripped him half way down,
as the Figg-Milletts owned no cat. 
Yes, she did gesture with her cigarette at the re-articulated tom sitting upon the doctor's desk,
but really, how absurd!
"It can say 'fuck you'," she added,
and then seconded the demised feline's alleged sentiments herself.

That night, the various policemen complained to their wives
about the whole unpleasant business,
and the wives listened in demure silence 
except for a certain Missus Elroy MacDougal, who requested a cat.
_______