Sunday, July 31, 2016

Book Review: "You Should Pity Us Instead"

You Should Pity Us InsteadYou Should Pity Us Instead by Amy Gustine

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


The writing itself is top flight, and every story pulled me in immediately. Three of the stories will stay with me. The first is "Goldene Medene" which takes place at Ellis island. A doctor who is supposed to be inspecting strictly for eye disease and insanity has "vision" and emotional issues of his own, his mind being on a love interest who snubbed him. His mood carries over with perhaps disastrous results for three people trying to get through to a new life in America. The second is "An Uncontaminated Soul", a story about a woman who, after her husband's suicide, becomes a stereotypical crazy cat lady. It's the best in the collection, in my view. The third is "Prisoners Do" (live on bread and water) about a man taking care of his wife and family after the wife's stroke leaves her disabled, at the expense of his own needs. Also good was "AKA Juan" about a black man adopted by a white family.

So, why just two stars? Because of two stories, both in the latter part of the book, and both dealing with characters' cruelty to innocents because of their own issues with someone else. "The River Warta" could have been a good story, about a woman who immigrates to the U.S. from Poland at the turn of the 20th century, but the horror story ending was unexpected and distressing. Suffice to say, she reveals that she decided to leave Poland because of her damaged parents taking out their mutual hatred on each other's cat and dog. This is the sort of stuff I don't need in my head and I felt it was way too far over the top to have any literary justification. This was the 9th of 11 stories and really blindsided me. I decided right then that this book was going in the circular file as soon as I finished, but hey, just 2 stories left, so press on. Mistake.

The story in between--"When We're Innocent"--was kind of strange, and left me feeling like "what was the point of all that?", but wasn't so bad. Then came the final story, "Half-Life" which is about a nanny who targets an unsuspecting family for revenge because she has an ax to grind with the woman's father, a judge. So, naturally, she practices cruelties on the 5 year old and the baby. This one I had to skip some of, I just couldn't justify reading it. I don't think anything about the story made it worth reading such stuff. Yes, life is horrible sometimes, and people do horrifying things, but when you're writing literature, it had better have a reason for being written about that transcends the mud and cruelty.

I gave this two stars for the 9 stories that were pretty good, but in all honesty, I would never recommend this collection to anyone, and because of the two stories near the end, I really give it zero stars. Yes, it's well written, but that doesn't counterbalance the subject matter. Ugh.



View all my reviews

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Broken Glasses

My glasses fell, broke, went blind in one eye.
Not much that I lose (anymore) upsets me very much,
but the world has lost its bones and I feel like a stranger.

Faces become pillows, buildings blobs.
Only my heart retains its hard edge, and I bleed myself dizzy every night.
"Look," say the pillows, gathering around my wheelchair

Like dumb birds for bread. They think I'm blushing
when I'm dying and hang little samplers on the walls of my room.
"She's as rosy as a girl," they say, silly chatterboxes

Without faces, but with mouths as big as the white shadow that doctors know.
______

mini-challenge.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Post Card

I wonder if this is normal?
If you were here, you would not care that the sheets were plain.
You would hold up your finger,
gently, testing me for concussion
and you would find me to be the same as I ever was--

unable to name the date, the address of this hotel,
or the President of the United States, but I never could anyway.
Oh, love of my heart,
he can't close such unhurried lips around that finger--
let alone each one in turn as the windows turn coral, then azure.

Where did you go?
I must have fallen asleep, and when I was awakened
by the hotel doctor and the day shift desk clerk,
you had gone. "Who?" they ask. "Who?'
Beautiful One, I can't remember your name--forgive me!
But I remember your bare hip, the rise and dip that God Herself envies.

I was made to leave the hotel, and the emergency room as well.
I bought a post card with a dollar I found nested in mud
beside a building in an unfamiliar neighborhood.
My hand, the one you held, the one you kissed and guided
between your legs as you spoke my name,

stopped, palsied, when I tried to address the card for you.
Where do you live? What is the name of the street
where you watch, every morning, the windows turning coral, then saffron?
How much postage will carry my heart to you, immediately?
Why can't I remember anything, darling, except that moment when I was happy,

as you stretched out, soft-skinned on top of me
and I knew everything, and nothing, and loved you so much?
_________

for "Kerry Says: Let's Send A Post Card" at Real Toads.  

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Crow Heart

I told you from the start,
from the morning you came through my open door
tripping on a hinge flopped dead on the flagstones,
that crows had nested in my heart.

My fairy tale cottage had survived the bombardment;
just a little gingerbread dust on the plates and tables.
You arrested me with such restraint
and took me before the local commander almost tenderly.

Judge and executioner grow out of each other's backs here,
squabbling, one keen to rot on the bench, the other furiously knitting hoods
out of rationed sail cloth and sheer frustration.
I smiled at them, took your hand, got you reprimanded.

My crows live for trickery because they are crows.
I am an honest woman, but they have nested in my heart,
so all night long I hear them gearing up their little printing press
and in the morning I am a prohibited edition and you have to act.

My crows dash themselves against the cathedral bells 
even as my show trial continues. Ring! Ring!
They have no respect for anything, and I have caught their fever.
I sway as if on ropes and pulleys, and my advocate warns me to stop singing.

We might have loved, you and I, in my gingerbread bed,
if we had met when people still cared about things.
As it is, I sink the shiv in even as I kiss you, but the birds whisper
inside my chest, insisting that I leave you a trinket, my old heart, 

bright and worthless as a penny.
_______

For Transforming Fridays, "totem animal".

top image: Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Blackbird Garden

In the blackbird garden--
my creation,
with every delight for agelaius phoenicius--
the sunken reed marsh,
the pretty stone fountain, 
and the many hanging feeders filled with sunflowers--

we sat relaxing as the red wings called.
The ground ivy was thick around our green Adirondack chairs.
I need one place, you know,
in this world to feel safe and at peace.
You were so calm, so matter-of-fact,
and the thing you mentioned so trivial,
I wondered why you were shitting me about it.

Nothing changed.
The sun stayed stuck in the sky, behind the branches of the mulberry,
but I felt a shiver as a red wing landed near the ground cover.
It has always been a little buggy there in summer,
but we have citronella
and the blackbirds--
so pretty, so much my beloved favorites,

but from another, smaller perspective (as I imagine),
huge, sudden, and completely terrifying.
_________
 
 
 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Read This Poem

Read this poem and I'll find that girl who snobbed you
and cut her dead in mid-sentence.

Read this poem and receive 15% off any astrolabe at The Drunken Parrot.

Read this poem and lose weight fast, locate lost loves,
eliminate mosquitoes, find a bank bag just sitting there on the sidewalk.

Read this poem and grow bigger boobs, thicker hair, enormous wings, why not?

Read this poem and Donald Trump gets laryngitis.
Read this poem and Hillary Clinton gets a big honking herpes cold sore.

Read this poem and feel younger, smarter, better!

Read this poem and leave a comment--
say a lot about my brilliance. Thanks.
_______

a little bargaining for the mini challenge.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Lost Art of Archery

The lost art of archery
can be practiced at seaside
in rented cottages.

First, open all windows.
Then, enlist a confederate.
(Fashion wig optional.)

One of you must be an artist;
the other, a patient on day pass.
The difference is slight.

Break boredom.
Impress crushes!
Secure random objects to pastel walls 

at will, at all hours of afternoon. 
______

for MZ's words count

Saturday, July 9, 2016

20 Minutes of Action

Little green men arrive,
looking like seasick 98-pound weaklings. 
Some frat boys decide to have fun by putting one in a dog crate
and pouring beer on him to see if he melts or something.
They piss on him too (used beer! ha!)
and then roll him--still in the crate! too good!--down the apartment stairs
and into the swimming pool.

Finally, they pose, with boozy grins,
holding the drowned spaceman's head up like great white hunters on safari
while somebody posts it on YouTube.

When the Mother Ship arrives
(Who's your daddy now?)
the things that are done to the frat boys by the "rampaging inhuman monsters"
are fodder for outraged talking heads the next morning across the land.
Why did they commit such unspeakable cruelties?

The answer is just like always.
Because they could, boys. Because they could.
_______



for the mini-challenge.



Life With Super Zac

Zacky pees on the computer room carpet. Again.

"Zacky, what did you DO?" I ask, pointing. Zacky says raccoons came in and did that. Zacky says it rained last night, just in that one spot. Indoors. Zacky says maybe it is oil bubbling up through the floor and we are rich.

"It isn't black, and it smells like pee."

Zacky calls 1-800-MIKE-WINS. Mike Morse, attorney at law, petitions the court for carpet samples, lab reports, camera footage (if any) and lines up character witnesses. As Zac's mom, I am asked to testify on his behalf, which is awkward.

Zac goes on Oprah and says his mom is mean for no reason, blaming him for what the raccoons did. The audience gasps. There are hugs and tears. Oprah gives everyone in the audience a chew bone, hidden under their seat. 

"Zacky, PLEASE. Just stop peeing in the computer room!"

"I wuz framed!" maintains Zacky from behind bars. He has to wear a little striped prison outfit and he plays the harmonica so sad it breaks the guards' hearts. They let him out. He comes home and pees on the computer room floor. Again.

"ZACKY!!!!!!!!" (chase ensues.) Zacky is very fast. He laughs as he runs. 

Maybe it really was raccoons. 

"C'mere, Zacky," I say. He jumps up in my lap and chews one of my hands as I pet him with the other. "Who's a good boy?" I say, giving him a kiss on his noggin. "Who's such a sweet smart wonderful boy?" Well duh, mom. (He holds these truths to be self-evident.)

I hope there are no more raccoons.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Book Review: "It Can't Happen Here"

It Can't Happen HereIt Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


"It can't happen here." That's what characters in this book keep saying, even as it very resoundingly happens here! "It" being a fascist presidential candidate winning the election and turning "here" (America) into a dictatorship.

Berzelius Windrip is one part cracker barrel philosopher, one part showman, and three parts baloney wrapped up in flags and bunting. (Sound like anyone in 2016?) Promising every (white, male, Christian) person five thousand dollars to get the economy going--the book came out in the mid 1930s--Windrip is elected over more reserved and conventional opposition. Before anyone can catch their breath, Windrip and his Cheney-like right hand man Lee Sarason have dissolved the Supreme Court, made Congress a mere puppet (by arresting dissenters) and turned loose their private army of "Minute Men", armed thugs wearing vintage blue uniforms who are big on parades and beating people up.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Doremus Jessup, a small town newspaper editor in his sixties, who begins the story with a family, a house, a dog named Foolish, and not too many worries. Before the end of the book (SPOILER ALERT), his son in law has been summarily executed, his newspaper has been taken over by government lackeys, and he has been thrown in a concentration camp for working with the New Underground against the fascist regime.

But why read an old book like this? After all, it can't happen here. Can it?





View all my reviews

Violent Vegans Speak Peace

At the rally, the crowd was already at a rolling boil
by the time I climbed the makeshift stairs to the platform.
I gave them truth!
Fire!
A little leg!
They responded with howls!
Bouquets!
Bottles!
Drunken gunfire!

I am the associate director and alternate treasurer
of Violent Vegans Speak Peace.
We have our own passwords,
catch phrases,
gestures;
you may have seen people making a vee with their fingers
and waggling their tongue.
This is the Violent Vegan trademark, a call to speak peace around the world.

In New York, Oslo, Paris and Moscow,
we spread our message
with pamphlets,
sit-ins,
arson
and instructive art.
In each city, I deliver my spiel--
I talk and talk and will continue to talk until the creature-eating stops.

Dar L., our leader, handsome in her beret and boots, is concerned about me.
She says that my workshops,
broadsides
and letters to the editor 
have become infused with nonsense about Mariah.
Her who-me? smile,
her widow's peak,
her clever use of rude language,
and my increasing--and, in this case, irrelevant--speculations about her sexuality
have begun to turn up regularly in my polemics.

Dar L. is right, of course.
I believe in the V.V. cause and all that,
but where my genuine passion lies is in imagining that Mariah carries my pamphlets in her boho bag,
that she is there, at the edge of the crowd,
wearing her turtleneck and tam-o'-shanter,
listening raptly as I talk about
revolution,
kindness,
hand grenades and the shape of her incredibly sexy lips.

I am in danger of being expelled
from the Violent Vegans Speak Peace movement.
My loose lips,
my never-ending single-minded sick-making sappy bullshit about Mariah
flows like a Niagra of smitten idiocy
and my inability to stop yapping about her is costing me everything.

Nonetheless, here she comes,
up to my table
with the stickers,
manifestos,
and vegan refreshments.
I can see it in her face, she has heard everything, knows everything,
except for the one thing I have managed to hold back
for fear she might stop doing it if she knew.

Oh sweet reward! There it is,
the who-me? smile,
the "hey, whatcha doin'?" from her impossible lips.
oh goddess
oh goddess
oh gee
aw shucks!
"Want to get out of here?" I ask her, the boldest thing I have ever said. 
"Want to grab a burger? or...."
She does! Here's to my secret slyly kept,
though everything else be compromised, ad infinitum. For Mariah! For love!
__________ 

For my "Secret Love" challenge at Real Toads.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Yorkshire Light Infantry

Drink a cup o' courage, boys,
drink clear to the bottom;
fight for some fine futures boys,
and cuss those swells that's got 'em.

Kick them fakers, Sergeant Major!

At dawn we'll rise and run and die
and be forgotten shortly
by lofty pricks with walking sticks
who like their cricket sporting.
______
a 55 for Toads. 55 words including the title.

Friday, July 1, 2016

I Need Dis !

"Aw shucks!"
The amazing Zac has been in his new home with me for three weeks now, and he has really settled in. He is very pleased to have his own royal forest, er, yard to romp around in, and a large human toy (me) to play with.



Zacky has a toy pile where he stashes anything that he feels he needs. This has included a biography, a sneaker, a Croc, my eyeglasses (he didn't damage them, but pilfered them off of the night stand) and the rug from just inside the side door. "I need deez!" he explained to a local reporter (me). 

Sir Zac eats like a little piggy and I have needed to loosen his collar about once a week! We are visiting the vet today and they will let me know if I have overdone it with the kibble, but I don't think that I have. I think this boy is still growing! If there is no kibble in the offing, Zachariah Puddington MacNeil Popodopoulos has no problem eating my hand, instead. "I am froshus!" he explained to that same reporter. 

Often, young Zac will be inside on the couch, on his back, getting a belly rub, and still be ferocious. The teeth! Oh my! Run for your life! Or just continue with the belly rub.

So, in conclusion, who knows what may end up in the magical mystical toy pile next. Sasquatch? Nessie? A particularly nice stick from outside? Stay tuned to find out!