Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book Review: "Once In A Great City : A Detroit Story"

Once in a Great City: A Detroit StoryOnce in a Great City: A Detroit Story by David Maraniss

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a book about Detroit at both its strongest and its most vulnerable. Detroit is my city; I grew up in its suburbs and have lived there all my life except for my 20s. And so, this book has a personal resonance for me.

Maraniss, also a native Detroiter, focuses his book on the period between late 1962 and early 1964. The book has a lot to say and reveal--at least to me--about such local figures as Henry Ford II ("The Deuce"), Lee Iacocca, Berry Gordy Jr., Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, Governor George Romney, Walter Reuther, and the Reverend C.L. Frankin (father of Aretha), as well as national figures such as Martin Luther King, Lyndon Johnson, and John F. Kennedy. The book is stuffed with politics, labor, the Motown sound, mobsters, sports stars, religious leaders, and all the movers and shakers of the time.

I turned 8 years old in 1963, and remember so many of these names and places, but through a child's eyes. I grew up hearing these names on the news, or around the dinner table--my father was a newspaperman who loved to talk about his work and current events--but after reading this book I finally understand who some of these people really were; they're no longer just names.

I found two aspects of the book particularly fascinating: the rise of Motown records, and the secrecy and planning that went on for years before the unveiling of the famous Ford Mustang. Naturally, there is much about race in this book, because it is at the core of the city's story. From my white suburban childhood, I remember well the adults around me being adamant about keeping the blacks out, and now I have read about the other side of that coin, people denied jobs, housing and education based simply on race. There is also much about cars, of course. My brother, nine years older then me, was a big "car guy", and because of him, I remember his enthusiasm and excitement about cars like the Mustang and Camaro.

On a personal level, perhaps the most poignant scene in the book was the description of the fire at the Ford Rotunda, an extremely popular tourist destination of the time,featuring cars, displays, and a huge Christmas bash which included live reindeer. I vividly remember going to what might have been the last Christmas event held before the place burned to the ground in November of 1962. I went with my parents and brother, and my brother bought me a little futuristic car. How could any of us have possibly known what the future would bring to the Rotunda, to the auto industry, or to the once vibrant and powerful city of Detroit? What a bittersweet read.





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Friday, April 21, 2017

Chatterbox

I chatter constantly
inside my head,
but to you I must seem silent, as remote
as a wild animal, distant by instinct.

All day it never stops,
continuing for half the night.
How I deluge you, and myself,
though my lips stay as still as a rock in a stream.

Leave, then, shaking your head, 
thinking "why doesn't she even try?"
I do nothing but talk, confide, confess,
but even as you go, I stay feral

and shy.
_______

for Magaly's "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream" prompt at Real Toads.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Softer Heart

I cannot find my softer heart
by wing or dusk-light call.
I cannot find my softer heart
by barter or by broken bell.

I know you. You're the one I looked for every day.
You the face from miles away, you the wrong face anyway.

I cannot find my softer song.
by trick, by dawn, or water pond.
I cannot find my softer song
but still I whisper...on and on.
_______

for my own Fireblossom Friday at Real Toads. "Corvid and sit a while."     

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Space Heater

Well, it's April,
but not so long ago you needed me.
I came to you when you were a fucking moon, and I rented your chest
so that I could warm it like a real heart. 
I just wanted to get that close to your skin, your breasts, your every breath,
even though now I couldn't give a shit less, and sit on the shelf like an unread book.

Every volume contains what it contains, whether eyes share it or not.
Never mind. I'll pretend I never cared when you framed me with your perfect hands
and charged me red and utilitarian as hell. I'll lie lie upon lie,
and deny the cat rumble my throat devised on its own.
Or, I could admit everything, that I loved you, that it thrilled me,

That I would have done anything you asked just to hear the 
satisfaction in your slightest sigh.
It's April, though, and old biddies who bored everybody with their reminiscences 
have kindly died and shut up at last.
I'll do the same, just don't expect me to be
here on the shelf next time your fingers get itchy and something seems missing

under your ribs, in that immortal Novocaine blizzard.
_______

some of my usual bullshit for Sunny's prompt at Real Toads. "Write about love using a common everyday image."

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Rain (An American Sentence)

I'd rather freeze my ass off in the fucking rain than read your haiku.

____

For the weekend mini-challenge at Real Toads. An American sentence is 17 syllables in linear order.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Babies In Prison

Babies in prison
become a problem.
The government is demanded upon
to show what they've got on them.

Meanwhile, infants behind bars
lie next to teddy bears with records.
The President arrives, with the skeletal warden
to investigate, harrumph, and mouth some several prepared words.

So young!
By a jury of diapered droolers convicted.
So done!
Like dinner, so some schmoe can get elected.

Babies in prison 
sit in swings for ten to twenty.
And politicians who admit their own crimes?
Sorry, we couldn't find any.
____

for Get Listed at Toads.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Book Review: "I Liked My Life"

I Liked My LifeI Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Maddy, a wife and mother, appears to have jumped to her death from the roof of the local library, leaving her husband and teenage daughter to wonder why she felt her life was so unsatisfying that she would do that. The novel is written in shifting point of view--an almost inescapable trend anymore, and one I'm not particularly fond of--between Brady (the husband), Eve (the daughter), and (surprise!) Maddy herself, looking on from the afterlife, a la "The Lovely Bones."

The characters were believable and sympathetic, and there were several bits of real wisdom scattered along the way, so I have to say that this book was readable and pretty good. BUT. While I am not a fan of ambiguous, unclear endings, I also find books that end too neatly and sweetly a little off-putting. This one is like that.



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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Short Fingernails Rag

With white Mickey Mouse hands, I disguise my touch along your railroad bones.
If you feel a little goofy, ginned up, off-balance,
it's because I'm directing traffic inside your ears--
cartoon buses with walking tires jive to Cab Calloway, 
on a highway where I goon the intersection with my Mickey Mouse hands--

One finger for stop,
one for go,
and one for vo vo dee oh doe.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Loaf

Here is a loaf which is mostly nothing,
to put in your mouth, described the same.
When you feel empty, fill nothing with nothing
and be satisfied with such legerdemain.

Give me back words which symbolize something
but are, in themselves, nothing at all;
aren't we lucky, drenched in such 
a trove of quicksilver wherewithal?
_____

a flash 55 for Toads. "extremely close but worlds apart."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Paperless Office

I saw her once, months
ago. Thought she was cute. 
Now she's back around.
She told me, in the morning, early
about the ditz where she's a paralegal
shredding all the hard copies cos "it's a paperless office."
There's people too dumb to live,
but it made a funny story.


My original heart is just a memory,
but talk to me, girl,
anyway.
______

56 words for Mama Zen's "Words Count."  Yesterday morning at the bus stop, my friend told me this story about some chick's major dumbass moment where she works. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Miss Lonely

She asked me where I live.

I said, I live in the sewers, and come up at night.
I live in a shoe box that rides on top of a train car going through a tunnel. 
I live on the bottom of the ocean. Bluup, bluup, bluup.
I live on the sun, and the appliances keep blowing up.
Where do YOU live? 

She made a weird face and walked away down the block.

So, I answered for her:
You live in a graveyard, and lick the frost off the tombstones.
You live in a dog's mouth and bite mailmen with your own teeth.
You live in a jar of jam that got old and had to be thrown away.
You don't live anywhere because no one likes you!

Then the street was so quiet
that I bent down and scraped my knee bloody on the sidewalk
on purpose. 

_________

for the "Home" challenge at Real Toads. My title is taken from a Bob Dylan lyric "Like A Rolling Stone." 

 Ahh you've gone to the finest schools, alright Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
Nobody's ever taught you how to live out on the street
And now you're gonna have to get used to it

Thursday, March 16, 2017

This Man I Love

He is difficult to know, this man I love.
Often, he is above me, behind me,
but I can hear his breathing 
distinct and beautiful like a private language.

Many have left him, this man I love.
Without a word, they go, and never return,
as if they were letters without addresses, or addresses abandoned and dark.

I found him by rising. I took each step in turn as if I were a dancer, 
and all I had to do was follow. I found it in me to do this,
for the first time in my life,
and without resenting it, or hanging back.
I keep my hands clasped, but in something more binding than prayer.
This man I love, he waits, and I am the answer for his faith.

His are the hands of an artisan, and I am the vessel now full, then changed.
When I submit to him, I know his skill is for me alone,
and that he will not falter, or hesitate, or fail me with his touch.
I will lift my skirts and lower my eyes.
I will kneel.

He is difficult to know, this man I love, 
and wears the hood of his trade that it might remain so.
When he lifts my hair, he trembles and sighs,
asking pardon and coin, his kiss sharp and low.
______

for my Fireblossom Friday prompt on the theme of "incongruity."

 
 

Friday, March 10, 2017

cerulean

The Moon is 238,900 miles away
in a sky
so immense
that it may as well be asleep inside itself;
and you,
me,
we are less than motes--
less than the least detail
of a dream
spread out from cell to cosmos
like reflected sunlight
caught in an iris
at night on a small patch of grass.

Do you miss me?
How long will I live?
What is the funniest joke
anyone has ever heard?

The Moon is
238,900 miles away, but seems as if
it would fit inside a tea cup
and that is because
we taste its light in dreams--
we hear its gravity in the lakes of our bodies
as the next moment arrives and there it is---
what?
The Moon, pale as certainty
in the lightening morning sky.
_____

for "synethesia" at real toads.
 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Anna

Anna was the only one of my friends that my mother liked,
but mom is dead, and Anna has moved to L.A.

Most of my friends, though big-hearted and funny,
were smokers, or "heavy", or "not going anywhere."
I asked, "Where is it you think I'm going?" 
and scooped myself a big-ass sundae.
You know that weapons-grade disapproving look? Mom invented it,
but felt it played better without dialogue.

Mom used to come knockless into my room,
pushing aside ten notebooks jammed with jumblefuck poetry and lyrics,
to tell me get up, do something, stick with something for once.
I wander into the weeds, it's true--wasn't I telling you about Anna? 
Well, back to that. 

Anna is the kind of woman Anna the girl started out to be.
No stops, no bullshit, just straight on and damn the roadkill.
For convenience, here is a planner for you:
If you want to be broke, make Anna your accountant.
If you want to be childless, hire Anna as your nanny.
If you want to meet doctors, install Anna as your chef.
If you want to test your strength, marry Anna and hold on.

I lost touch with Anna, but mom always liked her.
Anna was venomous, but had a perfect smile.
Anna was heartless, but used blusher to pink her cheeks.
Anna was vile, but dressed well for church on Sunday.
Anna was filled with rot from her hair to her shoes,
but knew the best salons
and always wore good perfume.
______

for Bits of Imagination: "Perfume."

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Succubus

Here is the thing about a Succubus--
she won't schedule a date at a mutually convenient time.
She'll just appear--always at an unsuitable hour.
Don't expect her to ask if you were sleeping. She knows you were.
Don't wait for her to say "sorry." She's not.

Here is the thing about your body--
with the Succubus so close that her breath is as near as your own, 
it won't be answering your calls anymore. 
Your old familiar will be off the leash, off the rails,
off to hell and gone--pardon the figure of speech--
and you may as well put a band-aid on the fault line of an earthquake
as to try and master your flesh, with Her there.

Here is the thing about her purpose--
it has nothing to do with your body. It's become a door, that's all.
Lemme in, lemme in, lemme in, that's why she's rattling your ribs.
She'll fog your brain with her honeyfire ways.
She'll draw every tremble from every lit-up synapse,
and perfect a reflex from all your sweetspots. Then again. Then again.
All just to distract you and make you deliciously stupid.

Here is the thing about your heart--
it's next-of-kin to the thing she really wants.
Try to catch the words she whispers to her Master,
The One you're not supposed to realize is there, but she's lazy about it,
and you know, in a feverish, unreal way, that He's in on this with Her.
It's a metric that measures how fierce her appeal is,
that you know but don't care that she's sharing you all the while.

Here is the thing about it all--
She is after your Soul, and even a sparrow has the instinct to be wary.
Her lips, so soft they could make a god give up,
are the vehicle for every lie under the sun. 
Resist Her--yes, you, barely hanging on in the gale of her attentions.
Resist Her, even as She takes you over the edge.
Hold back just that one particle, that mote She's come for,
and know you're winning when she curls her lip and bites you awake,
shaking, in tears, but still a lit vessel intact despite the storm.
_______

From a dream I had recently.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Moon Men

You bring in Moon Men to take your side, the way you always do.
They seem unaware of their own absurdity,
and miss the irony when I offer them cheese and a jaundiced look.
Martians, Venutians, your whole catalog of 1950's movie space-crash schlock
take up for you and goggle at me with their several eyes, some on stalks.

I've had enough. I'm going to swing away on the rings of Saturn
and land on a moonless world, where everyone is courteously silent.
But just as I start to unclench, here you come, with Moon Men to the right and left,
charting my shortcomings, agreeing after much discussion, 
and then stuffing me into a sock to be swung like a cat until dazed, dented, dead.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Garden Wall

They stood daddy up
against the garden wall
and shot him through the head for writing against the regime.

Our ginger cat
hid behind the tomato vines.
Its eyes were yellow. The sky was blue. The leaves speckled red on the green.
_____

for "Walls" at Real Toads.

 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

In The Year Of

In the year of the pestilence,
in the time of the puppet government,
we fell in love.

We held hands, and gamboled 
as others doubled over and died.

In the year of the pogrom,
in the hour of the public noose,
we were giddy,

and grateful for our milky corneas
our couplings, and our luck.
________ 

another starry-eyed love poem for flash 55.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Anything

Anything.

That is what I would do for you--
anything.

Write my name....here.
Put it on pastels, the little squares I keep just for these occasions.
My heart, and the ornate clock on the face of the observation level
are in harmony--

tick...oh.....tick....ohhh.

Anything.
That is what stirs me when I look at you
and your sweater rides up in a fold at your hip, soft as a cat.
How could I deny you
if you stand there and tease me, so deliberately, like that?

Here is the key.
The one I keep next to my heart, warm from the skin of my breast,
where the two freckles stay, inseparable, like us.
Here is the key.
The one for opening the carefully restricted,
faculty-only
strictly-by-appointment reading room with the soft lamps and the throws.

Anything.
Possessed by me, made accessible to you,
with fragrance of rosemary, pansies,
fennel, columbine, rue, daisies, and violets.
Find me, look for me
at the desk beneath the clock at two,
across from the locked doors,
I'll be waiting--wearing colors, not white, and my little slippers.

I have catalogued our love, collected our sweetest words.
Find me, curl your arms around my head, whisper to me and don't stop,
don't leave, just kiss my hair, trace the edge of my ear, and love me back
like Anything.
______

 for my own Fireblossom Friday challenge "Looking Beyond The Obvious."

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Love Me

Love me.
Do it by post,
semaphore,
or even by foot messenger.
(By the way,
I've moved.)

Poor drowsy tippler,
so sad for so little reason.
There are only a smattering of countries.
Don't you see, we can hardly avoid crashing into one another
at some point
if only we stop looking.

Remember when I read you
the poem about the falconer?
The widening gyre, and all of that?
You'll remember Yeats better for the way I recited it
with my tongue in your ear
and my finger lightly circling with every syllable.

One day, not soon,
I'll be giving myself a manicure with a jack knife,
having forgotten all my softer ways, when your signal will arrive.
Send love, little sparrow.
Send me your heart with a red silk ribbon tied around it.
Time is pitiless, and I need a tangible token
to prove that someone, once, looked for me

Even though I'm the way I am--
just bones and scrimshaw
in a language that whales know, and sing, and go...
to find harpoons that only hit us when we rise.
________

for Get Listed at Real Toads.



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Book Review: "Insomnia"

InsomniaInsomnia by Stephen King

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


A friend, who knew I liked King novels, gave me "Insomnia" for Christmas some 20 years ago. That was during King's unfortunate "Gerald's Game"/"Bag of Bones" descent into the yawning trough of crap writing that afflicted him around that time and led me to decide he had been shot in the head or something and become unable to write. I didn't read him for years after that, but books like "Cell" and the excellent "11/22/63" brought me back.

So. I was stuck for something to read last month, and pulled out this long, overstuffed turkey to read. Giddy with naive optimism, I thought a book with a 70-year-old protagonist might be kind of cool. Indeed, it didn't start out so badly, but neither did the Titanic's maiden voyage. We meet Ralph, a nice old fellow whose wife has recently died. Ralph begins suffering from ever-worsening insomnia. One would not imagine that his nightly struggles would make very good reading, but in fact I cared about Ralph and his circumscribed oldster world. Then the weird stuff starts. Good, right? It's Stephen King, the "Master of Horror", right? Not by a longshot.

Ralph starts seeing people's auras. He sees so very many auras, on so awfully many people, and King describes each one of them in loving detail. This continues throughout the rest of the book. Trust me, auras are not something I ever want to hear about for several hundred pages ever again in my life, thank you very much. There are also balloon strings floating above people's heads. Don't ask, they aren't very compelling, either. At this point, the reader begins to wish to be impaled by a javelin, or anything, just so as not to have to keep reading, but I did, because I'm ever-hopeful.

Wait, it gets worse. Much worse. Ralph hooks up with neighbor widow Lois, or as I took to calling her, Lois The Load. Lois mostly seems to be there to emote, and to go, "Oh my god, Ralph, what is it???" Lois speaks in this particularly cloying fiddle-dee-dee super G rated parlance that would make the Pope long for some good hearty cuss words, and she stands wringing her hands as Ralph does battle with an unspeakable creature bent on their destruction, bleating, "Promise me you won't HURT him!" She survives all the way through the end of the book. A shame, if you ask me, because she made me want to stick the spine of the book in my eye sockets so I wouldn't have to know about her any further.

Add to all of this, King at his worst, making absolutely sure to slow down any actual action or plot progression to a glacial pace through the use of myriad tedious tangents. Is Ralph in a showdown with the forces of evil, with thousands of lives depending upon his swift and decisive action? Time to have him launch into some lengthy "that reminds me of the time..." side bar. Time to stop and describe the full history of the surroundings, or to flash back to a conversation held with some irrelevant third-tier character during calmer times. Time to recite the full lyrics to obscure songs by The Turtles. Time to attract attention while riding on public transportation by screaming, "GET ON WITH IT!" repeatedly at the book, which only stares dumbly back and goes on another skull-crushingly dull tangent.

If you're dying to read umpty-hundred pages of utter drivel, this is the book for you. NOT recommended.



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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Pythia

"If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." --Matthew 5:29

"The best deal is the one that makes the most profit." --Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, Rule #2.


I have been making some changes; scaling back.
Behold my lovers, who brought me poems in baskets and cages,
with locks and without, with good intentions and without. 
Here they are,
male and female,
two by two,
plucked before the flood.

They are white and hollow, and have nothing to say.
I shake them; they grin and nod, just as they did in life, but the best thing is
that they now lack any flesh, and cannot shit me like before,
cannot use curve and skin to make me stupid
and set me to my writing like a trained seal clapping.

Nonetheless, the itch remains, a wind in my ear,
a crawly under the pillow case, the world's most beautiful bubo blooming 
in places where the poems are kept.
Listen, they say, listen to us....

I have been making some changes, scaling back.
Mama croc is dead, my lovers rolled away like an aftershock,
and I've never been happier, but the vapors find their way up
through cracks in the foundation.
It's God, isn't it, mightier than the utility company,
whispering, instructing, handing me the Golden Wisdom which I spout,
serene as a vegetable,

no idea what I'm saying, 
but free to say it and unencumbered by wondering what you'll think.
_____

for Brendan's "Voices" challenge at Real Toads.

 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Mbira Duet

I am in your kitchen,
bigger than a bread box,
formerly sponsored by Gaddafi. 
Come on, 
get up, get up, you lazy sl--iver of early morning moonlight, you.

Look for me.
(I had a key.)
In plain sight, where everyone's eyes go sleepy.
I'm as unstable as rising dough,
follow your lips;
theirs is liturgy in language any fool can understand.

We are the two, the last two
that the local Lothario hasn't fucked. 
You, because you're out of his league--
me, because I am made from African wood that splinters in the dark
and that no sandpaper can smooth. 
The Bantu left their mark on me, as a talisman and ornamental warning.

Have you found me yet?
It's your kitchen, get it together, Princess.
In this bottle over here, the anti-msg
for rendering the over-seasoned tasteless.
Let's start over, just you and me.
Moon Dog and Moon-ette, just two girls who went wrong so many times
we became a brand, with an anthem,

rolling figure 8's together in a math our bodies translate into mbira music.
_______

for Literary Excursions With Kerry at Real Toads. 



 

 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Plague Doctors

What we need
is plague doctors.

Oh, you laughed, in the garden,
during summer,
a bloom hanging from every branch and stem.
You tossed your head back, showing perfect teeth--
the same ones that fall out now
in your sleep and in your tea.

I am not popular.
I admit it, and grow even less so now
for having been correct.
We need plague doctors, and where are they?
Where are the students, the masters, the institutions
that could have turned them out
where caution and courage intersect?

Very well, I'm the girl
for the job, and damn the looks I'll get
from the upscale ladies whose smiles 
are meant to suck the fight from their perceived lessers.
Hear how they cough now,
how their buboes distress them
causing cancellation of their little dinners
in favor of charlatans with vestments and censers.

I am the one.
I am your only hope.
See how winter has taken hold, and the dogs eat
your unburied glassy-eyed girlfriends.
A beak stuffed with spice and roses helps me to endure
the stench of you, and your kiss
as I save you so that you'll owe me
in the spring, or lie blue as the gentians.
________
 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Tortoise Shell and Dog Brain

I see everything through
tortoise shell and dog brain--
it's all in an effort at honesty that I'm filling you in up front.

My cheaters might be rose-colored or dark as molasses--
you'll have to decide, based upon
my attitude, subtle cues, and giveaway pratfalls.

Okay, maybe I've been panting after you, like you think.
I'm more tortoise than hare,
so you'd better invite me by degrees after all, 
perhaps by post or 
smoke signals, because once startled I'm gone and it's a job to get me back.

So what d'you think? Never mind.
Ever since I turned seven hundred years old, I'm not as rash
as I used to be. 
Nonetheless, play your cards right and I could be
keen for your bed, hogging it,
living for nothing but to make you happy, Master, but still
prone to wander,
chase my tail,
and act stupid at the drop of a hat. 
______

by request.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Port Of Call


Hey sailor,
this is the lunch counter
anyone can sit at.

Hey handsome,
buy a girl a soda?
They'll bring one glass, two straws.

Tell me, Lonesome,
why aren't you in the bar? Do the stools there
pitch and yaw?

Too bad, swabbie,
about the girl you left behind.
Do ya miss her? Do I remind you of?

Listen, sugar,
set your sea bag down. Noah knew
--bet you do, too--
that a pigeon is still a dove.
______

for "escape to the past" at Real Toads

 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Dolly

You dismiss us;
me and Dolly.
"Run along to your room," you say.
"Stay there...all night. All day."

You think we don't know
that you crawl with every loathsome perversion
of flesh and spirit.
You believe that Dolly and I don't see it.

Fine. We will whisper over our tea set,
cups as delicate as a veneer.
We'll discuss you, you know, and send anonymous notes
to Mrs. Muffington, the police, and in the pockets of strangers' coats.

Dolly says your lungs are weak.
You stumble when you walk. Cough when you speak.
"Hello," we'll say, "Hello, what's this?"
as you lie on the floor we'll give you a kiss.

Dismiss us once more.
Wave your hand airily.
Say, "Go talk to your doll!"
but...

my doll talks to me.
______