Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Review: "Paper Wings"

Paper Wings: Novel, APaper Wings: Novel, A by Marly Swick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After recently reading Marly Swick's "Evening News" and liking it, I ordered "Paper Wings" and liked it, too. The year is 1963. Suzanne's family had just moved into their brand new house in Madison, Wisconsin, three years earlier, and things were looking rosy. Her mother had campaigned hard for John F. Kennedy in 1960, and between that and the move, seemed to be blossoming at last. Then Suzanne and her classmates are let out early from school one fateful day in November--you know the one--and she comes home to find her mother sitting on the floor crying in front of the television set, her hair half washed, and every channel showing the same news.

"Paper Wings" is a really skillful depiction of a time and a national mood, as well as of a particular family, all on the edge of changing forever. Suzanne's mother reverts to being moody, unstable, and depressed. Her optometrist father becomes more and more frustrated with her, and when she takes Suzanne on an ill-advised impromptu trip, in the middle of winter, to her hometown in Nebraska, a lot of disturbing history reveals itself.

Nothing is going to be the same for any of them, or for the nation at large. This story is about innocence--and balance--lost, all through the eyes of a young girl caught in the middle of forces beyond her control. I liked it a lot, and recommend it.

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Monday, July 21, 2014


I ate a strawberry.
You wouldn't believe
how fresh,
how delicious,
how cool and sweet it really was.

The thing is,
it was the last of a particularly fine batch.
I could have offered it to you, I suppose,
but i didn't--
in fact, 
the thought never crossed my mind.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

This Poem Is the War Bird, the Cat, and Ashes

This poem is the war bird, tethered.
This poem is the cat, crouched, waiting.
This poem is ashes, flame's dark warmthless daughters.

Once-soft Goddesses wearing gauntlets
hurry new dawns into a red sky unready;
The bones of songbirds make trinket jewelry
for these light-drunk chippies, unsteady.
It is not the war bird who is tethered to these dime store deities--
they desperately tether their silly selves to him,
his talons,
his keen eye,
asking him in a rush, blathering,
to tell them of rising, of honest blood, of sky.

Quiet becomes rare currency
in a plaza sick with ambrosia barkers.
Weaving between pillars and the busts of noble dead,
comes a common cat, traversing the markers.
It is not the feline who lives at the edges and margins,
but the noisome voided screechers calling themselves master--
wearing bibs,
insensible to the common cat, crouching,
stalking the dull bird under their ribs.

Here is what we did and what we were,
here and here and here. Weep for the beauty of it,
write poems and songs and marble art,
to present to these defectives--our citizens--steeped in shit.
Everything skips a generation, so the wise ones have said,
before we cored them and tore out their tongues,
all the while
pasting on a laurel wreath.
See our favored girls, pampered and scornful,
smiling ice from rot-sweet teeth.

This poem is the war bird, tethered.
This poem is the cat, crouched, waiting.
This poem is ashes, flame's dark warmthless daughters.

for Hannah's mini-challenge, "boomerang metaphors".


Friday, July 18, 2014

Monsters of Me

I'm not so sure I would want to face
the monsters of me
that might have been, under different stars.

How heavy and foreign, how bizarre,
the clunky telephone and the safety glass.
What to say to the hardened, lined face on the other side?

Taken further, what about the locked ward,
what about the chilling disturb of the rolling lawn
with its markers and dates?

Then again, maybe Goddess spared enough angels
to save the other me, too.
Maybe the bars, the taverns, the prisons, the asylums,
and yes, the graveyards, had to do without me there, too.

What if, on that different Earth where the same sun seems to rise,
and where coffee brews the same, warming the hands, the body, the soul,
I should find something even harder to see?

What if there were a white-painted porch in early daylight,
a soft gray throw, and a pair of dogs at my feet on the painted boards?
What if a face as familiar as my favorite poem appeared...
what if she had lips for mine,
her body close and known?
What if I had her close at hand, there, in that other life?

What if, looking on, I didn't even know her name?
What if, having seen, I had to go back?
I wonder,

if that might be the hardest of all to bear.


for Fireblossom Friday at Real Toads


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Partisan Oz

Yellow brick roads are fine,
but funding has to come from somewhere.
We can't just open the vault every time a twister 
blows up your skirt--
musses your hair.

Somebody ought to stop all these Munchkins and monkeys
from flying across our border like they do.
You must be THIS TALL to vote, with a picture I.D.--
this means singers and simians.
This means YOU.

Dorothy, don't think for a minute that your vajayjay is your own;
don't make eyes at Glinda Good Witch, we've got interns keeping logs.
We're the men behind the curtain--
no guilds
no gals
no dogs.

for Susie's Yellow Brick Road challenge at Toads



Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Spiny Demon

A spiny demon fell out of the chandelier and into my decolletage,
just as the aperitifs were being served.
There is only one thing for a lady to do when this happens,
and so I went to the kitchen and boiled him in a pot
like an artichoke.

The chef in his toque
and his staff in their amazement
gaped at me for crossing an unspoken boundary line,
but I was raised by wolves
and educated at Smith--
I can snarl with accent or without.

By this time I could see the spiny demon's breath,
though it may have been steam,
or just hot air.
Concerned for my manicure,
I plucked him from his impromptu bath with tongs,
and demanded to know if he had come
to try to collect my soul.

He clammed up, so I went next door,
holding him gingerly by the tail,
into the neighbor's house,
the Land That Time Forgot,
and played stoopball with him against the inside stairs.
I used a Babolat racket
and a wicked serve to make him talk.

Borrowing the jack from someone's Audi,
I opened his gob and got the truth out of him.
He had been spitting night into my stellar disposition,
while I slept,
innocent as a kitten.
I stashed his loathsome spiny self in the dishwasher
and, departing the neighbor's house,
I kicked off my Jimmy Choos, letting my bare feet sink into the wet grass.

The sun was coming up,
as yellow as a taxi cab,
so I started all over, despite my age, and despite convention.
What the hell, Bo Peep, I said to myself,
live a little, bring down a moose,
win a Pulitzer,
get a girlfriend.
Why not?

for mag 228

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Book Review: "Lies My Girlfriend Told Me"

Lies My Girlfriend Told MeLies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julie Anne Peters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Julie Anne Peters is da bomb, and that's all there is to it. With several young adult novels to her name already--including my favorite, "Keeping You A Secret"--she has now come out with "Lies My Girlfriend Told Me." Teenager Alix has been in a relationship for six weeks with a charismatic classmate named Swanee, and is head over heels in love. Then Swanee suddenly dies of a heart attack while preparing for a track meet, and Alix is naturally inconsolable.

That's just the beginning, though. While going through Swanee's room looking for some of her things she'd left there, Alix finds Swanee's cell phone...and the dozens of text messages from another girl. It soon turns out that Swanee wasn't all that Alix--or the other girl--had believed that she was. They soon discover that lie had been piled upon lie, and that they had both been duped by Swanee, adding a heavy dose of betrayal to their grieving.

But wait, there's another surprise! Alix and Liana (the text message girl) find themselves attracted to each other. Is it a rebound thing? Revenge? Or could it be something better than Swanee ever offered either of them? You'll have to read the book to find out!

On a personal note, this novel's storyline was a spooky bit of deja vu for me. Ten years ago, I fell hard for a woman who was a whole lot like Swanee. People like that, they seem so magnetic, but they're hollow. Alix, you deserve better!

Highly recommended.

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