Reanimated Lavender Granola Switchblade Nun rides again.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Apes In The Coffee

There are apes in a woman's coffee.

"We warm ourselves against a hostile environment," say the faces upturned in the steam.

"Asian disciplines,
on-line broadsides,
these failed.
But this warm become our haven."

The woman's mind and limbs are heavy as asteroids, 
her heart a falling anvil,
her simian teachers ascended, sanguine.

for Flash 55, hosted by the amazing Hedgewitch O' The Wilds, noted connoisseur of cofveve. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Book Review : "Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant"

Dinner at the Homesick RestaurantDinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Honestly, after reading the goshawful "Breathing Lessons" (Pulitzer Prize? Really????), I had sworn off Anne Tyler novels for years. To me, she is very uneven. "The Accidental Tourist", "A Patchwork Planet" and "Saint Maybe" were great, "Celestial Navigation" was good but horribly sad, "Morgan's Passing" and "Searching For Caleb" were okay, "Ladder Of Years" could have been good but the wimpy, irritating ending ruined it, and "Breathing Lessons" and "Back When We Were Grownups" were just awful. That said, I kept hearing that this novel might be her best, so I decided to read it and I have to say, it was every bit as good as "Saint Maybe."

I couldn't give it five stars perhaps for personal reasons having nothing to with the writing. The dysfunctional Tull family was way too weirdly like my own original family and so it was hard for me to read; it was like being suddenly plunged back into my own past and that isn't a place I want to go, ever. So I guess I recommend it for Tyler fans, and I'm glad to have read it, but it did not make me want to read another by her. Ten is plenty.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Book Review : "The Sea-Beast Takes A Lover"

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover: StoriesThe Sea Beast Takes a Lover: Stories by Michael Andreasen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy cats, did I love this. As a big fan of Donald Barthelme, this collection reminded me a lot of his stories, though of course this one reads as more modern. Andreasen creates bizarro worlds and story lines to illustrate all too familiar themes of isolation, the desire for connection, and that old show stopper, the continuing misery of being alive. That said, these stories--for the most part--are anything but somber, and several of them are howlingly funny. It is, in part, the author's perfect ear for language that makes this work. He boomerangs from scholarly, arcane language to the most casual slang and back again, and he plays fast and loose with time as well, all to glorious effect.

The title story is the best, in my view. We meet a crew of salty sailors whose ship is locked in the embrace of a love-struck kraken whose misguided desires are dragging the ship down by degrees. The story is up to its gunwales in seagoing parlance, but just when the reader gets into that Mutiny On The Bounty vibe, sailors start appearing wearing sunglasses and ear buds and playing video games to pass the time as the titular Sea-Beast embraces their vessel. So, who's in charge here? The cannibalistic Admiral, that's who. I laughed so hard at this story that I had to stop and gather myself before finishing. Arr!

Here's a quick note on the other ten stories:

Our Fathers At Sea--a meditation on failure of family connection, in which the elderly are sent to the bottom of the ocean in pressure-resistant capsules launched from a carnival-like seaside park.

Bodies In Space--On a business trip, a married man referred to only as "The Man Of The Future" strays with a co-worker in the back seat of a Volvo. Just as satisfaction is at hand, both he and his paramour are abducted by aliens.

The King's Teacup At Rest--The King Of Retired Amusements buys a closed fairground and discovers the impossibility of bringing the past back to useful life. Don't eat the hot dogs.

He Is The Rainstorm and the Sandstorm, Hallelujah Hallelujah--A grade-school age girl tells the story of her ever-cheerful and nearly Holy Infant-ish baby brother, as well as the story of her mother and "aunt" who are trying to avoid the aunt's ex-husband. This story, despite its odd elements, was more serious than most, and one of my favorites.

Rockabye Rocketboy--an airborne teenage boy is admired from afar by a beautiful porn star. Sometimes we only want what we can't really have.

The Saints In The Parlor--four saints (Saint Her Own Hand On A Plate, Saint Upside Down Skull, Saint Tongue Of Flame and Saint of Dubious Or Mythical Origin) somehow find themselves materialized in someone's parlor.

Andy, Lord Of Ruin--third grader Andy, a pulling-wings-off-flies type kid, becomes dangerously unstable at an atomic level. Officials, teachers, parents and neighbors debate what to do before he explodes.

Jenny--The narrator's teenage sister is a normal girl except for not having a head. He loves and resents her at the same time, as her condition controls the lives of the whole family including him.

Rite of Baptism--parents and congregation vow to help (name) through life's shitty trials, and they are legion.

Blunderbuss--something goes wrong during a field trip to the Time Institute. This had me in tears from laughing.

One of the best short story collections I have ever read. If you can't abide the bizarro stuff, it might not be for you, but i adored it. Highly, highly recommended.

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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Love At Zero Or Twenty Atmospheres

We gave each other little sips of air,
enough to keep hearts beating, but
hypoxia made us believe it was love.

Your fallen eyelash black on the pillow
turned to a swan,
our future a loaf.
We called its hissing a song and danced
in the night of its wing, warm and blind.

Our marriage in space, though invalid, was dope ballet.

Now we have a cat, and the swan is dead.
I live in our cat's ear,
you on its tail,
composing music out of echos 
transforming motion into purpose,
all of it faux and yet it takes up every space,

Every thought,
every moment.

So we say, "Look at our cat, stuffed with swan,
his head tilting side to side at us,
isn't he absurd?"
He licks his lips and bats us together,
like dolls in the hands of a misfit girl

Laughing, screaming, friendless except for the stuff she can summon from her damaged and endless imagination.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Bucket Of Tar

Here is a bucket of tar 
and a photograph of us dancing
on the head of a pin
shaped from a cloud already burning away.

I know how angry you are,
that you'd love to pour across my border
and make me care, but 
my bridges are mirrors where magpies scry. 

I know I said things, we both did,
with knives and roses in our teeth.
I am Eve with an apple in my jaw,
for whom God made highways and the will to survive.

Take the tar
and make your skin warm again.
Travel over yourself to the next natural barrier,
listen to the river and toss the photograph in.

photograph by the amazing Susie Clevenger

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Book Review : "The Knockout Queen"

The Knockout QueenThe Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My word, what a book. Briefly, it's about two teens who don't fit in, but don't go glassy-eyed on me just yet. This novel is anything but formulaic. I am a little bit confused by the title as it references not the narrator--a gay teen named Michael who meets older men via Craiglist and Grindr because he feels that no boy his own age would be interested--but his next door neighbor Bunny Lambert, an amazon of a girl and a star volleyball player.

Both have pretty much been cast adrift to find their way on their own. Michael's mother has gone to prison for stabbing his alcoholic father. He is living with his aunt and her son, a real bro who Michael has nothing in common with. They live in the sort of small house that is rapidly being replaced in their suburb by McMansions on every side. In the one next door lives Bunny, whose mother has died in a road accident and whose boozy real estate salesman father is never home. She and Michael find each other like finding a life ring, and become best friends.

However, vicious gossip and casual high school cruelties lead to a series of shocking twists, and the reader is never really on solid ground again. This is not an easy read. It is almost too real--the characters and the events here are as messy and mixed as life itself. It's a terribly sad book, and I had to fight off falling into a depression myself while reading it, and yet it is not the kind of book that wallows or annoys. Like life, it just kind of breaks your heart. All of the characters are both brave and awful, doing the best they can with what they've got. Just when you think they've beaten the odds, they fall again, and just when you think they're down for the count, they manage to get back on their feet. It is a messy, violent, thoughtful, poignant, marvelously observed tour de force.

I should mention that if you clutch your pearls at sexual scenes that pull no punches, or depictions of rather awful violence, you've been warned. This is a very human book, above all. It will tear your heart out while patting your hand, give you a sweet feeling and then smack you in the face. It deserves 5 stars, honestly, but because it was so sad, I gave it 4. I just can't rate it with books I LOVED. I respect what this author has done here, and I am very glad I read it, but I am also glad it is done. Highly recommended, but be aware that it is demanding reading, emotionally.

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Monday, July 6, 2020

Armless Judy

Armless Judy The Drunk
needs a hug but
guys expect her to be grateful
so she insults and knees 
them when they get skeevy.

Angel on the nearest star
with love kept kind in a velvet box,
Made from Moon and Mallomars
too high to reach, too far to walk

(Sings Judy, head down on the bar.)

Armless Judy The Drunk
used to be Beautiful Judy
posed on the running board in a fur and tiara

Yes I'll go for a ride with you, sir
around the Milky Way a while
and should we spin and fly and whirl
I'll take to the air with a smile, sir,

I'll fly there with a smile.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Book Review : "Who Will Run The Frog Hospital?'

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? by Lorrie Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Honestly, the first twenty pages bored me stiff. Then, though, it picked up and wormed its way into my heart. This is the story of two teenage girls, best friends, at a time (the early 70's) when I was at that point in life myself. The narrator's parents are, to be blunt, effed up, putting emphasis on the peripheral and missing what's really important in their rigid, closed-off way. By contrast, the girls--Berie and Sils--are wild and vulnerable at the same time. Wild mostly at heart, looking for Truth in pop songs, and depending on each other to be there at the center of each other's world.

I have read Lorrie Moore before, and she can be hilariously funny. I confess, I expected this book to be that way too, but it wasn't. Oh, there are funny moments, but this is really an elegy (as one blurb put it) to a lost time and place, and made my heart ache with it. Recommended, but I would add that you have to be in the mood for what this book is. If you go into it expecting it to be light-hearted, as i did, it won't be that--much as what we expect from life at fifteen always turns out to be something quite different. Having just turned the last page, I feel as if I have visited my own past.

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