Monday, May 24, 2010

Teaching My Cat

My cat is in the window
being tortured by the birds outside.

She is twitchy and every few seconds
a little chorus of mews slip out of her jaws.
It’s a chattering sound, like she can’t stand it.

Serves her right, she’s been trying to wake me
for hours, standing in the doorway of the bedroom

her cries like a siren.
As if she herself in all the world were solely responsible
for pulling up the sun with her calls.

The birds are having an all out war,
flipping and jumping over each other
their little bills used as weapons.

It’s a turf thing, I imagine,
gazing out at the window.

My cat looks up at me, begs me to let her join.

No, I tell her,
you’ll just ruin it.
You’ll just scare them all away.
As if an alien suddenly floated down from space
in the middle of their civil war.

You are too much like me, I tell her.
I did the same thing to a perfectly peaceful Sunday afternoon.
Someone has to learn this lesson.
Today it’s the cat’s turn.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Boys and Basketballs

I hear them thumping up the street
the steady beat of the ball on the sidewalk.
I hear their chatter too.

I hear the names they call each other
like peacocks puffing out their feathers.
They talk about girls, a lot.
Men will tell you that they don’t talk about women.
They will say only women spend all their time thinking about the other sex.
But damn, boys sure do talk about girls.

Thump, thump, thump.

They are getting closer and the cat in the window is getting nervous.
I see her tail twitch.
She cranes her neck to see them. She wants to jump down but doesn’t.
I feel her anxiety.

I sigh. It’s always the same with the boys and basketballs.
They will see her. They always do.
I want to coax her out of the window but this one is hers to decide.

I lay back down with my book and my classical station
which I can no longer hear over the

Thump, thump, thump.

One tells the other his girl is a whore.
They all agree. There is cackling and the jostling of fake fighting.
This also happens all the time.
I think about the long summer ahead of me and how living near a park
doesn’t see so charming.

Thump, thump, thump.
There are many “yo’s”
as in, “yo check out that cat.”
and I think, here we go. I sit up a little to watch her
but not enough that they can see me.

“Hey cat, was up?”
“Look at those eyes, man, that’s freaky shit,”
they say. They say more stupid things like that.
The cat lets out a long meow, the kind that I know is meant to be a threat
but doesn’t come off that way. She doesn’t understand how silly she sounds.
They all start to laugh.

One of them throws a wad of paper at the screen causing my cat to pull back.
I sit up more.
I yell. I try to sound like a man so they will be scared.
I should know better.

They don’t even flinch.
There is silence
and then the

thump thump thump of the ball.
Then laughter. Tons of it.
Eventually they move on.

The cat jumps down and I call her over.
She curls up next to me on the couch.

I try to explain to her about picking her fights,
about choosing when to ignore it and when to stop. I explain to her about giving up.
She doesn’t answer. She is unfazed.
She just purrs, and then goes right to sleep.

I think about how lucky she is. To be able to forget it all. Safe and inside.
I go back to my book, wait for the sound of my husband coming home and
decide not to tell him about the boys and the basketball.

Monday, May 17, 2010

In Year Thirteen

I have not,
but the other day I felt I had lived a long time,
with you. The smell and touch of you as a person.
I was descending the steps to the R train,
music blasting in my ears and

he was standing against the wall at the bottom of the stairs.
Gentle sloped back, his fingers running over the
fret, a slick dark wood, wet as if kissed,
taunt strings,
the bow like a knife with which he would chop
through all this sick stale air.

I watched him rock back on his heels,
breathing through his mouth,
the violin tucked into his neck
like a child
like a lover

the way your face was earlier,
not even an hour ago,
your hands at my waist,
up against the kitchen table, your breath in my ear
feeling you come,
as if neither of us would let me out the front door
without this little parting kiss.
Your chin cradled by my shoulder.

I took the earphones off,
so that I might listen,
and watched people drop change
in his case. I had no change but didn’t feel guilty
because at that moment,
with the trilling notes echoing
off all that hand built stone
deep in the depths of the underground,
it didn’t seem to matter to the violinist.
He was somewhere else already.

Paganini, I thought,
the devil, the gypsy, the curved spine.
But as the doors closed and he was taken from me,
still playing,
still frantically playing,
without an audience
against the rush and roar of this metal machine
pulling us all away from each other,
I decided on Vivaldi.
It’s more romantic that way.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shamless Self Promotion

So the lovely folks over at Purple Stained Skin were kind enough to review my book and you read it here:
and if you are so moved by what you read you can most certainly pick up a copy of it here:

Or directly from me, whichever you please. I'm cheaper than Amazon!

Okay, ending my shameless self promotion.

Monday, May 10, 2010


She says Jesus just shows up in her work.
She’s not a practicing catholic
but she loves the stories and he just seems to wander in.

And I wonder about that.
Jesus doesn’t show up in my work. Ever really.
The dead do.
Christ, they keep passing back through that gate,
as if to undo the dying and to zipper up their clothes
first and then their old lives next.
They try to sit on their old couches
and use the remote. They try to work their jaws to make sound come out.
But it doesn’t.

The living show up too. They are full of shrugs and misdeeds.
They wound each other with little laughs.
And they write me later and say,
“Was that me? Because I don’t talk like that.”
And I tell them of course it wasn’t them. It was someone else.
And they feel better. I feel better too.

The rest is all big moments,
car crashes, near deaths, full deaths, murder,
pain, suffering, misery
and then little moments
the feel of the couch on the back of my bare legs,
the creak of your footsteps
on the hardwood. The incessant cat meow. Those things.

The molding of day to day,
stitched together to make week to week
patterned into year to year,
the quilting of a life,
my life,
until I pass through that twisted doorway too
and then, like the rest, try to get back out.

But never god. Or God. Or GOD.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


My oldest sister is turning forty.
We fought in the car once, in front of my mother.
She told me I had a sharp tongue.
I told her I wasn’t one of her children.
We barely talked the rest of the way home.
I sulked in the back like a teenager. I told her I wasn’t 9.

But we all remember each other certain ways.
I know that. I was just angry, I guess.

For instance, she’ll always be 16.
It will always be summer,
with the little black kitchen radio
the cord strained and twisted
to fit in the window
so that she could hear it from the deck,
in a bikini.
The deejay’s would come on between songs
and yell “Flip” and she would so she wouldn’t get burned.
I spied on her from the back door,
the way she looked to so grown up.
All hips and breasts and teased out hair.
Not even human, other worldly and certainly nothing I could become.
Just this creature that lived in the house.

Or in her car, sitting in the backseat at night,
the Led Zepplin blasting from the radio
the strange smell from her cigarette,
the burning glow of the cherry
dancing like a living thing
as she waved her hands in the air singing loud and off key.
It was in those moments that I felt like I was a part of something bigger.
She would whine about town or our mother.
She would pound the steering wheel to the drumbeat.

I don’t think about later when she got in the car and drove away with that man
who would give her a child and little else.
Or when she came home with that small sandy-haired baby boy.
Or when our mother got sick
and we sat on the same back deck,
maybe on that same lawn chair, I don’t remember,
and split a cigarette,
saying we would have to quit smoking now.
Or when we both fell into the rhythm of this life.

No she is still 16.
I am still 9.
I am still in the kitchen
fidgeting with the dish towels
waiting for lunch, watching her drum
her fingers on the arm rests of the lawn chair.
It is always summer.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Finishing Her Sentences

She’s out there somewhere
and I’ve got nothing but words at my feet.

Words. I keep arranging them left to right
and then right to left again
to see if they will make any more sense that way.

To see if they will call her out.
I’m dropping them out the window, screaming
Look Out Below.
Smoke signals.
All the little letters
in the periodic table.
I’ve got them all.

These are secret things we no longer keep secret.
We don’t live in that world. There are no more diaries
hidden in the mattress. There are no more
oh please god
or prying eyes,
little sisters,
twisting open locks.
There is no more betrayal.

We all have megaphones.
Loudspeakers. We are all veiled.
But we surely want to be heard.
She wants me to finish her sentences.
And when I found her in the void, I wondered briefly
if we pass each other some days, in real life,
where fingers brush strange legs and coat sleeves.
Unexpected touches,
stumbled stammering apologies.
Did we touch crossing the train station platform
trying to make our connection to this Siberia?

I have language, darling.
I’ve always had language.
In fact some days I have nothing but language.
But you have all the love.