Where the God of Love Lives Part 1

Apparently, one rule of blogging is to only put your best stuff out there. Since I don’t really have a “best” list, and I’m prone to impatience, I’m trying an experiment. A fiction story in parts, and of course it’s all up in the air as we go (read: unedited). So, editorial/plot/character suggestions welcome as we go along. Should be fun! Thanks for playing. And here we go…

Map of the territory and area covered by prese...

Where the God of Love Lives

Despite the fact that it’s warm in her office, I pull my ubiquitous shawl tighter. My hands are shaking and my voice is unsteady. She has asked me to tell her about my two days in Saudi Arabia. About my attack and my brother dying. As much detail as I can remember, which is a lot, or as I can handle, which is unknown. The smell of curry consumes me. I am crying before I even start. But I start, at the only place I know, the beginning. She hands me the box of tissues.

February 24th 1991   Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The wind stampeded across the white sands. The camel did not. I pulled the flimsy silk scarf higher over my face. Earlier that morning, at the Batha souq in Riyadh, an already 102 degree pool of sweaty humanity on every side, the lightest weight material that scarves came in seemed like the only sane choice. Then, in the middle of the desert with wind-whipped sand on every side, it seemed like insanity. I couldn’t see, I could barely breath, and we were still at least three northeast kilometers from civilization. I had a sudden onslaught of respect for the stoic flat-footed camel under us, who seemed to know which way to go, mixed with some real fear of that featureless waterless wilderness. “Harsh environment”, as the travel guide had warned, seemed lacking in adequacy. Feeling an unfamiliar proximity to death by exposure is what made me ask about the local customs.

“How do you bury your dead?” I ventured over the sand air, leaning forward slightly to help the hearing, but careful not to touch my young male Saudi guide.
“What?” Amil shouted back. He was sitting disgustingly comfortable on the unforgiving camel saddle.
“Bury your DEAD!” I choked louder. It was not lost on me how my voice wafted into nothingness in the wind while his carried just fine.
“Dead? In family? Depends.” Amil did not acknowledge me in anyway except by his answering. “Man – he buried in graveyard under family name. Woman – take her here. Bury in sand. No name.” He proclaimed this with astonishing matter-of-factness.

What was an American woman supposed to say to that? I know dogs buried better than those Saudi women. Peering over the edge of the ocean blue silk that was keeping me from suffocating completely,  I wondered if we were walking on top of any dead women. Little piles of bleached bones with only clinging tattered bits of their black hijabs to give any clue who they might have been. I don’t respond to Amil, the physical and psychological effort is too much.

The hot angry wind around me suited my mood perfectly. I have hated everything about this country since I entered it, maybe even before I entered it. The black shrouded women, the misogynist men, the intense heat, the lack of humidity and shade, the war and what it’s done to my brother. The only redeeming feature I saw was some truly amazing architecture. It was little consolation for me though. I was relieved when our small oasis-touring caravan entered the stables. I silently thanked the camel, my brother, Daniel, who was on the camel behind me, thanked a smiling Amil. A short taxi ride, and we were back in air conditioned bliss. Within minutes, I was basking in the most appreciated shower I have ever taken.

to be continued…

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Poetry Slam Here I Come

This week, I was inspired by a video of Taylor Mali performing his poem “What Teachers Make” at a Poetry Slam in NYC. So, decided to try my hand at the in-your-face PS style. Here’s to hoping I can perform my piece as well as Taylor performs his.

Warning: Some adult themes and language, and still an early draft (why can’t I wait to post?? It has to be cut by 2/3! 🙂 ) And lest there’s any confusion, this is fiction.

Taylor Mali’s performance is here: What Teachers Make

English: Taylor Mali at the international scho...

Accusations

I have done it all.
I have had sex with your boyfriend, my boss, that stranger at the bar and his best friend – both at the same time, the girl at the party, the dog.
I tranced out at the ecstasy club with a boy-man who died on the best trip of his abbreviated life, and all I remember is flashing red lights.
My kitchen canister holds all the marijuana the drunken revelers that fill my living haze can smoke.
I don’t bathe because I am too late for work having woke up naked
next to a man whose name I don’t know, and now must dismiss,
while I pull on too-worn-out jeans over a too-fat ass on my way out a too-open door that doesn’t lock.

My house (who would give someone like me credit you’d like to know)
is filled with queer  paraphernalia, dripping purple pagan gods,
Black lights, back lights and sickly glow in the darks.
Flea-filled furniture, frayed seams seeping stuffing . Yellow stained and smelling of sex.
Don’t eat anything. Mold wafts and floors stick. Beware
the stoned reeking bodies littering blackening
carpet, matted like the Rastafarian‘s hair in the tattered poster still hanging by one brave corner above
a small table wobbling precariously under the weight of a pumpkin-sized bong.
Beware, you whisper – don’t go.

My sin and shame lie in heaps around my sandaled feet, black nail polish to hide the dirt. Black cat who hides out-the dangerous-side,
You note the vaccines I will not get because I will not show my arms,
The determined debt collectors who come rapping, tapping at my chamber door, “whilst I pay thee? Nevermore.”
My hair that I will not pay to have washed and trimmed into social acceptability, done at home like the bandage when I cut off my finger.
Parched grass that I will  not feed with precious water because
I care more about my pot plants in the basement than being like you.
These are testament to my debauchery and inner vileness.

See? You loudly smirk, so sure of your assessment you don’t even bother with discretion.
She forgot her phone, her computer, remembered her lunch.
What is that? Kohl-ra-bi? Kom-bu-cha? Sounds like vomit.
Don’t stare at it too long, and for god’s sake, don’t touch it, it might rub off on you — she might rub off on you.
She steals, you know. She hacks people’s computers,
she’ll ruin your files, tap your email, keep you from buying the house you so desperately want because
she can, because she and the agent have a fellatial agreement.
She will lie and gossip about you. So, you hush your friend,
Don’t believe her. Don’t include her. Don’t make eye contact….unless, of course, you’re looking down your nose first.
She will cast a spell on you, make you crazy like her, low like her, dirty like her.

F__k you. The life you project on me has never been lived.
You, perched on your painted pink throne of judgment curling your lips and your lies.
You with your entitled expectations, spreading your glib gossip and your rancid hate  on my life like
super glue fusing to my soul and ripping my flesh as I try to peel off all that doesn’t belong.
A hell punishment for a life I have never lived. The guilt-ter is the guilt-tee but the jury does not know because
the defense is silent all these years. But no more.  Let me bring it down.
You. don’t. know. the. first. thing. about. truth. and you don’t know. the first thing. about. me.

Image

Samorial

Sam_closeup

Hmmm, all the editing I did yesterday seems to have vanished. The picture did have a story attached…

Sam, my wise and patient bichoodle, passed into dog shangri-la late Wednesday night, after an operation that attempted to remove an obstruction in his upper intestine. I’m sure he is sitting on the softest pillow, being fed Doritos by adoring humans, and bounding though open parks with abandon. He was a good good dog, and I miss him a lot.

I don’t have the words now, so I’ll use another songwriter’s words that I’m sure old-soul Sam would approve of.

And we live
And we die
We learn to bleed
We learn to cry
We learn to hurt
We learn to heal
We learn to love
We learn to feel
And let go
Just let go

Diego’s Umbrella

Rest in peace my dear dog friend and teacher.

Why Write Bad Poetry

One word: Practice

It’s the only way to get better at something, right? So in keeping with this blog’s intent, i.e. practice, I post a poem, inspired by a recent writer’s workshop I attended. It’s not  good – it’s practice.

It’s really good to write practice pieces, maybe not so good to read them. But at least you can say “I knew her when she sucked.”

Dining room casement windows

Dreams

I.
Whim struck, I dust off my fragile chimera
the published poet and eight dreamers witness.
Surrounded by the smell of old basement with new paint
trapped by black casement windows that won’t open, the poet sits
doling out readings by writers the others know
and 
brave aleatory assignments for our training.

I need a pencil with an eraser because the first word is wrong,
all the words are wrong. I cannot find the Good words.
The quiet mother with the racing tongue daughter,
the generous elderly couple from Pennsylvania like me,
the earnest young father and the beautiful divorced women
with tear-filled pasts, they all have Good words:

sweatered polar bears with a thousand brown buttons riding into eternity
sophic oaks keeping their ancient council in the cool red of fall
spaghetti rocking chairs with yellow notes on blue painted lakes

My Good words trapped in a beige wall of conformity,
dead like the youthful mother in the upside down car,
there is no scent of lavender or salt icicles in the good bye,
no heart hardened by heat, no wheeled limes filled with pomegranate juice,
my dress does not flow with rusty artist ripples. Locked.

II.
I dream of important gold keys with no locks,
found on my bed, forgotten by a careless enemy

I dream of eating a field of poppies so red they hurt
but feel like chocolate and taste like tamarind

I dream my blood filled soul bursts against the beige wall,
my palm grinding damp splatters into tedious paint

III.
Before the beige paint, I chose the blond god
with the iron that I could not lift
who was too demanding,
a withered attempt to reveal a trophy

Now I choose the frank writer
with 
the Good words I cannot find
who is too forgiving,
because I want back the something

I can not find

The turquoise lock for the important gold keys

Detecting Women

“I just don’t know. Really, I don’t.” Shane whispered to his best friend Ben, as he pulled hard on his long black hair. Why Ben was even his friend at all baffled Shane. They were as opposite as their sueded Birkenstocks and mammoth Nikes.

“How do you get to be 31 and not know how to say hi to a woman?” Ben checked his Brittany-Spears-playing Android. “Don’t tell me,” he looked Shane in the eyes, “You’ve never been laid.”

Shane looked down, wishing intensely that his crappy Cat-Stevens-playing cell phone would ring right now.

Ben pulled his 6′-2″ self into a more upright position and took a deep breath. “Shane, you’re hopeless.”

Silence.

“Ok.” Ben sighed. He stood a solid 10″ inches taller than Shane and probably weighed twice as much. He was strong and athletic. Shane had fingers thinner than any girl Ben had ever dated. Shane was stark and pale and unimaginably introverted. Shane was also the kindest person Ben had ever met. Too bad girls (and Shane) couldn’t get past go.

“Ok.” Ben sighed again. “Here’s how to tell if a girl is even willing to talk.”

Such an inspirational story! I can’t imagine going back…or maybe I can. But even her own daughter, geez. It’s mixed in with some personality traits of the NF Healer type.

Theme: Love at first sight

Lisa lived in the historic district. She loved it there. All the houses, small by current standards, are vintage 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Victorian, craftsman, bungalow and other architectural styles she couldn’t name lined quaint friendly streets… everything unique and bursting with character.

The evening light was the best time for an appreciative walk to admire the classic and the quirky in the houses, the yards and the people. The neighborhood was renown for it’s ‘quirky’ people too, just like Lisa liked. The soft pink light from 8 o’clock to 9 o’clock possessed some quiet magic that turned the whole neighborhood into a stunning surreal fairy tale that was almost too good to be true.

On pink evenings like tonight, she was just tingling with gratitude and joy. How was she so lucky to get a house in this neighborhood? It was one of the priciest and funkiest neighborhoods in the city. Well, the housing crash was good for something!

Tonight wasn’t a walking night though. Lisa had started a mammoth azalea planting mission. 29 bushes to get in the now hard ground before they withered in disappointment in their pots. It was hard work for a single gal, who was short and without much upper body strength. But the work barely registered. It was her own personal piece of enchanted front yard. Plus, she could watch all the dog walkers, baby pushers, joggers and bicyclists meander up and down her street while she dug.

It’s 8:43, maybe. A soft brown tweed jacket wearing a fedora, red hi-top sneakers, and a cream button down shirt floats into view right next to her wish-it-was-iron-but-it’s-not fence. Silky black hair far too long for the 30’s look fringes the hat. He didn’t have a dog or a baby. He had … a spell. Suddenly there was silence. The alluring pink light, that shy smile, those endless warm brown eyes. He was stunning and surreal.

Lisa stared without shame forgetting her own muddy t-shirt and jeans. She surprised herself with a sudden onslaught of nothing to say. He stared back, pausing for a moment from his walk. Then he smiled demurely and lowered his eyes to the ground, taking his beautiful face to continue his walk. But Lisa couldn’t move. She couldn’t think. She just memorized the tweed of his jacket back in that soft seducing light.

But before Lisa could register disappointment, the jacket back turned into a jacket front. The long black hair was undulating gently away from her. Nnow here he was suddenly before her. So close. She could almost hear him breath. Lisa dropped her shovel. No one noticed. His slightly more confident smile bathed her in pink rose petals. It was indeed almost too good to be true.

Fantastical

I received an email today from a friend addressed to her ‘fellow word nerds’ with the subject line of “Runcible to Rumpus”. It was a link to an article on made up words, like those that Dr. Suess used. The article is here.   http://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/wordroutes/3260/

I was so inspired by the fun words and ideas, that I  wrote a limerick. Below is the result.

Word Nerds
There once was an assemblage of nerds
Whose garden was a rumpus of  words
They planted the vowels
Scattered consonants all while
Digging up meanings for their runcible surds

So, ummm, does this make me a published poet?  🙂

Write your 5 minute limerick in the comments below. Can’t wait to read them!

Thunderstorms

I wrote this for “practice” yesterday on The Write Practice blog. They give you a topic to write about for 15 minutes. Ok….I took more than 15 minutes, but so happy to have the thought. Let me know yours!

In the southeast, we had summer thunderstorms every day at 4 o’clock. I believe they set the world clock by them. Black shrouded clouds would sneak in the back door, turn off the light, soak the place for 6 minutes, then leave without even a good-bye. Now, though, I am in the west, and the sky is wide open. You can see a storm coming from counties away.

From my current vantage point on the ridge, I can look out the wall-size windows of my office building, one wall facing west, one wall facing north, and watch the storm clouds invade the valley. They always come from the west. And technically, I don’t have an “office.” It’s a row of cubicles that line the windows, and I don’t even sit in one of them.

I live my corporate life surrounded by my own personal storm and four soul-numbing gray walls. I have to rely on the commotion around me to know when rain is coming. It’s easy though. The snarky and malicious office gossip sits by the west-facing window. She let’s everyone know EVERYTHING (true or not) and makes sure there’s always a storm brewing. Sometimes a storm warning means rolling up your car windows. Most of the time it just means you need an umbrella to protect yourself from the oncoming assault.

Today there’s a huge mountain-range-to-mountain-range storm front racing up the valley like a giant tsunami. The gossip springs into action. “Look! A storm coming!” Like the Avon lady, she goes door to door delivering the news.

Interestingly, rain fascinates everyone in the west. People morph from behind more gray walls to watch the front, childlike in their awe. The streaky gray wall of water pushes forward. Impressively fast. Sharp thunder cracks, snarky gossip lady starts talking. Impressively fast. It’s something about someone, people listen. But I don’t linger — Standing that close to a window, one never knows if one might get hit by lightning. Since my car windows are already up, I retreat for the safety of my umbrella.

“That was awkward”: Engineers and Socializing

I’ve been hanging around engineers full-time, both professionally and socially, for about 20 years now. I really thought I had a handle on the way they think and their ultra conservative views, even, maybe especially, about social interactions. But this week I was once again blindsided by just how easily engineers scare when they have to do something in a social context that’s even slightly out of their norm.

Let me just preface this with a bit of explanation. “Engineers” can be any personality type, but without exaggeration, the profession attracts mostly highly analytical, largely introverted, NT (that’s a Myer‘s/Briggs personality type), predominately male folks who like to make sure your world is safe, technologically progressing, and contains as many gadgets as possible. They are NOT risk takers. These types fill the R&D departments where I work.

So, I recently spent 4 days at a technical training meeting filled with all the engineers and research scientists in my company. This is not the first time I’ve had to do this (thank you, I appreciate your sympathy). And each time that I am required to spend more than 3 minutes interacting with these folks, I find that I do or say something to offend their sensibilities. I’ve learned that offending and/or embarrassing an engineer is not a difficult thing to do, especially in a social context.

The last night of this meeting about 25 of us go out to a bar for drinks and some pool. At one a.m. there is still a handful of us hanging around. I’m feeling pretty good about the evening. Not only did I have a nice time, but I am pleased that I have made it through the night without giving any engineer any reason to shrink in fright.

Or so I thought!

That was when my boss sat down beside me and said “That guy talking to you, that was awkward.” What? My jaw drops to the floor. I take a second to think of  what he could possibly be talking about. Ahhh. The moment we had walked through the door of the bar…

About a dozen engineers enter the small bar ahead of me, another dozen behind me. The ones in front, cross the short 20-something feet to the bar before everyone is even in the door.

A normal-looking  local guy sees the big group coming up to the bar just as he is saddling up for his own drink. He lights up — new people in his little local hangout! He smiles a big smile and tries to engage the guys in a conversation. He makes  friendly social overtures, stepping back and offering them to go ahead of him to get their drinks.

The engineers don’t know how to handle this apparently. En masse, they all step back 3 feet, forming a half circle around this guy like he’s got tuberculosis or something. They look down, hands in pockets. No one daring to talk to a friendly stranger or accept his invitation to go first.

I instantly assess this situation unfolding in front of those of us farther back in the group, and, with barely a thought,  jump into action. Figuring I can “save” the engineers from their own embarrassment, and help keep the confused local from feeling like a leper, I move ahead of the socially stuck engineers and give the local guy someone to talk to.

After a moment, the engineers seem to relax slightly, but no one joins the conversation. They move around us and order their drinks. The local asks me who we are and where we’re from. We discuss whiskey, then go our own ways. We never talk again.

This is the event my boss is now talking about. I thought I had been a hero; more accurately, I hadn’t thought much about it at all. Now my boss is “counseling” me. He talks like I was hitting on a stranger or letting some stranger hit on me. He elaborates about not doing things that would embarrass myself (or does he really mean him?). He uses his own personal “non-embarrassment” standards and goals as an example.

I let him talk. It’s late, there’s alcohol, he’s my boss, he’s a generally nice guy. No point in stirring the pot any further now, no matter how frustrated I am.

What I got out of that evening was a revelation though.

I’ve spent decades feeling sorry for myself at having to deal with these kinds of misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and differences in social comfort levels and personality type on a daily basis, alternating between allowing the blame to fall on me and thinking I work with a bunch of highly degreed idiots.

But that night and that talk finally opened my eyes. At last, I am able to re-frame the last 20 years in a more positive and more accurate light. It was all suddenly worth it. I wasn’t “suffering” through all of this — I was collecting data!!  As exempli gratia, just those few hours gave me at least one blog, an essay, a clear focus for a book AND it’s title. Wow! You just can’t pay for that kind of inspiration.

I really owe my boss one.