Saturday, March 15

Menu

An isolated heart is a terrible thing. You can salvage it in several ways. My favorite is sliced, thinly, and grilled. Serve with hot mustard.

If your morning is tedious, you can use this recipe as filler while performing other tasks. After grinding chocolate, throw in the day's spices. Your heart will be much improved with proper seasoning.

One heart cannot serve two without some tricky maneuvering. Be sure that you account for all guests, and have a warm, damp cloth at the ready for each.

Today's recipe calls for the following ingredients:
one heart, washed, pressed, and emptied,
one cup hot chocolate, ground and fashioned from the shards of dreams that woke you in a sweat,
one kitchen, cleared of sharp physical objects,
one knife, rescued from the aforementioned clearance and sharpened, carefully, on your tongue.
Assorted spices, extracts, and impossibilities.

Cut bravely around the heart, severing its grasping tendrils without paying attention to its cries. Pat it fondly and wipe your hands clean. Sip chocolate thoughtfully while you gaze out the window, wondering why the birds have gathered in that one tree, and why you cannot accomplish the things you have set out to do. Grind teeth and notice you have left marks in the cutting board with your fingernails, again.

Set your heart on a figured platter. Figures of Bosch seem appropriate in most cases, but a willow-ware platter can be quite elegant with a few garnishes.

Season your heart thoughtfully. Spice is a very subjective thing, but several testers agree that the combination of vanilla, ground coffee, assorted chiles, and coarsely ground black pepper is a fine and traditional flavor. Do not be afraid to experiment or try something new. Cover the heart with banana leaves and allow to rest in a dim room, with a tolerable red wine and a well-loved paperback.

When you are tired of waiting for your heart to quiet, remove your salvaged knife from beneath the pile of lifestyle magazines and test it by scoring a single line on the wall. Do not lose track of time while contemplating the number of lines indicating every dour morning spent questioning your existence. Set this fever aside, and move on.

Slice the rested and spiced heart into an equal amount of thin strips. Each person should receive the same amount; if an odd number, consume the extras over the sink, silently. Tears are optional.

Arrange heart thoughtfully and with care.
Serve raw, with bread and wine, after the salad. Do not be offended if a guest refuses your heart; after all, it is bitter.

Bitter.

--
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175754


Thursday, January 30

Slit-tongued

It is not yet spring. The urge rises from within,
  as it always has, to paint my skin in cherry-
  blossom shadows on pure ivory powder.
  Black lines and hard edges of serrated leaf
  serve as contrast, serve as a fence to keep
  it all in. I cannot feel alive in winter, I wither
  in summer's heat. Let me be a dancer in the
  bright autumn and a maiden in flowering
  spring, where the sparrows nest in peony
  branches, where the petals fall to matcha-
  scented winds, where gardens are arranged,
  seeming endless, until the end.

Monday, January 27

ἀλήθεια

The dead do not rest,
easy in their beds, with peaceful smiles
or in the comfort of ash.

They will walk up to your barbecue
and sniff,
and grin,
and before you know it
they have eaten the rising scent of burning charcoal,
the fumes of cooking meat.

There is no scent of lavender in their action.

When you are waiting at the bus stop,
the cigarette in your hand sends out tendrils
of a signal.
They will blow smoke rings
while you are still trying to catch a breath.

They will lick at leftovers and
drink the vapors rising from your
gimlet, your sour, your perfect old-fashioned.

The idea of your drink remains, but the fervor is gone.

The dead stick around. They are
not gone from us, not only memory.
And they are restless.
They walk the halls of our heads
at all hours, while we are still waiting

for unproven verdicts to pass down.

Friday, July 12

In the Drowned City

Fish dart between the pillars, where the meretrix once paced; the purple silks of a dissolute age still hang, tattered, from glassless arches. Where the silk has disintegrated entirely, kelp sways in curtains, untouched for centuries.

Long-maligned Ahes walks through empty, sodden streets, an ornate key on the golden chain around her neck. Seawater has tarnished her silver slippers. Iridescent fish scales dangle like grape clusters from her ornaments; her gills are the color of rubies, gentle in their movement and implacable.

Anemone blossom and writhe in her footsteps. Sharks frolic in her wake.

In the well at the center of the drowned city, a voice rises in luminous bubbles. The red-bearded knight encased in coral cannot weep. His tears mix, unseen, with the sea, and his entreaties are lost amid whalesong and the dim clangor of the city's sunken bells.

When the City of Lights falls into the sea, Ys will rise again, a balance long promised, long prophesied. And the Lady of Kêr-Is will walk in her silver slippers in the moonlight, where roses will bloom bloody in her wake. But the red-bearded knight will remain at the bottom of Dahut's well until the sun goes black.

Thursday, April 25

Colonies

"This is really special," he says with a grin. "This one is a tomato." Elise takes the small, slightly squishy orb from him with pursed lips. She holds it up to the light and turns it carefully from side to side. Stephen watches, his long fingers twitching slightly. The sounds of the lab bubble around them, a shell of privacy held in place by the murmurs of their co-workers, all involved in recreating the delights that once were commonplace.

Elise's white hair glistens under the bright lab lights, a creamy pale color, rich as sheep's milk. She brings the tomato close to her face and inhales its sour, slightly spicy aroma. When she smiles at last, her eyes are nearly hidden in a collapse of soft and wrinkled flesh. "When I was a child, we would hide in the seed storage unit and tell each other stories about fruit. You can't describe the color blue as a flavor, but we talked about blueberries and the color of the mythical sky in the same breath as the idea of lemonade.

"The idea of summer as a cultural wellspring," she continues, "is not something a child ought to be able to argue from. But the desolation among our parents and grandparents, when they realized that we would never see a fig tree, a strawberry--it was a sadness that encouraged us. I never thought I would see a tomato. We imagined them tiny, the size of a thumbnail, heart-shaped and violet, and we knew they were poison."
"Poison?"

"I think Erica had found some old records. Today, of course, I recognize the Solanaceae are more than that, but at the time..." She trails off, and Stephen lifts his eyes to her mouth.

She is old, older than the memory of nights and days, and still the young scientist wants nothing more than to press the fruit into her mouth with a kiss. But it is the first tomato, the first and only success in a thousand years, and the sacrilege would be unimaginable.

The lights in the lab flicker, and the sound of workers, the sound like a thousand voices humming, falters. Elise raises her ancient face to the ceiling, a sighted Tiresias straining to listen.

"The fans," she whispers, the faintest look of dismay beginning to dawn. "The air exchangers have stopped." The lights flicker again and the workers begin to run, heading for their cells, their families.

In the panic, no one sees her take the first bite.

--
For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, SAM gave me this prompt: "Summer pleasure, winter sin."
I prompted FlamingNyx with "blood under the fingernails and sand on a red velvet skirt."

Wednesday, January 23

Landscape


I don't like cities
concrete fountains and spurs
instead of trees
instead of the horizon
or the shore.

I wonder if we all begin
by drawing ourselves against
a white background. No sketch
of my face has context,
in no painting I have made

with my hands
does a background exist. Not
even arabesques,
not a grid or a line, although
sometimes a shadow
makes its way below.

I want to be seen in candlelight
or on the sand. A view
of the porch, where fireflies gather
in the green; or the mist reaches
subtle hands to touch your face.

I am beginning to refute the blank--
I am tenacious, can hold on for ages and empires,
but I can also let go.

Tuesday, September 18

bite

Where your mouth has touched,
I burn. Each kiss, a flaring
ember in my skin.

Thursday, September 6

Huáng

I hear the day break. It cracks
just at the horizon, scarlet like yolk seeping
through the knife-edge, and I am still
twined around you.

I am heavy with sleep, tired of time.
When I wake, the night is rising around us,
the fires you stitch into my skin still building.
Where would I go, with this heat,

but into the ice-white gleam of the moon?
I dreamed of the sun in your hair, the depth of light
it must contain. I dreamed you pressed your paints
into my mouth, gilding me for the sacrifice.

My hair grows ever greyer. Soon I will be ash,
a lump of incense you must hand deliver
to Heliopolis. Soon, perhaps, I may
no longer rise in the night,

soon I may greet the day, and burn anew
with stolen knowledge,
burn that the moon misses me,
and that you never will.

--
For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, kat gave me this prompt: "There's a sun I'm eager to see, but the moon still longs to keep me."
I gave November Rain this prompt: "'Kiss me and tell me it's not broken.'"

Thursday, August 30

Ordinary Disasters

When the moon disappeared, we were flung headlong into a story. Not one of the good ones, though. The world, wobbling drunkenly across the sky, has a new set of tales to tell.

This is the story in which the Beast tears Beauty into bloody strips and devours her whole; the story in which the Blue Fairy plays cruel jokes on innocent puppets. The one where Sleeping Beauty sleeps, forever, because without true love's kiss we are left with the thorns. They slice like knives and put out eyes and clutch in closer every year.

It wasn't a hundred years before we began to break. It wasn't even one.

Here is the story in which the crane maiden lies bleeding in the forest and no one binds up the wound in her breast. The carven wife never comes alive, the nine-tailed fox is killed, savaged by hunting dogs. Here is the part where Inanna, descending, is stripped bare to the bones and never returns. The sun sets on Hansel and Gretel in the forest, or in the oven, or in the witch's belly, breadcrumbs still stashed in the pockets of the pants that were carefully cut off and discarded in the corner before the grisly feast.

Godfather Death eats and eats and never stops to admire himself in the glass at the foot of the bed. Ella falls to blood poisoning, ashes and lye and glass shards embedded in her battered feet. There are no Seven Sisters, no Penelope, and Oz becomes a dream in the poisoned desert, the fevered ravings of an absinthe drinker.

The moving finger writes, and having written, points directly at its audience in condemnation. We cover our faces with blood-red veils. We tattoo the old inscriptions with ash and mud from the bottom of the lake. We patch up our wounds with paper, the ink mixing with our blood and tears until we are smudged the color of the hole in the sky, black and moonless and bereft. The end is not coming.

The end is already here, crouching beside us in the dark.

--
For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Christine gave me this prompt: "Take a familiar book, story, or fairy tale, and rewrite the ending. Feel free to change the setting, time period, characters, etc., as long as the original story is recognizable." Of course, since that is kind of what I usually do, this became rather more of a challenge.

I gave SAM this prompt: "'You're nothing but a deck of cards!'"

Thursday, July 26

Anniversary

"Then I had to take Quill to the vet. He's been eating string again. Dr. Delaporte says there wasn't enough in his system to really mess him up, but I'm going to have to put my craft stuff on a higher shelf. At least we didn't have to send him in for surgery. Dodged a bullet, huh?" She taps her chipped fingernails against her front teeth and changes position in the uncomfortable chair. "Maybe not. Maybe Quill wants a vacation. He likes the treats there." I'd like a vacation, she mouths at him.

The faint, chemical smell of the room coats her tongue, and she takes a drink of coffee to rid her mouth of the taste. It doesn't help. Now it's chemicals and cold vending-machine coffee, drying her out. It makes her brittle.

"What's that girl's name? Simone? She stopped by again this morning. I don't know if anyone told you. I told them to be sure to tell you I took her off the visiting list. Did you mind? Just say so." Surface smiles. Black anger beneath. "Just open your eyes and tell me, David. Tell me you want them to let in your whore." She leans forward, the cold metal of the chair's arms digging into her wet palms. "I should have left you where I found you, you coward."

She isn't expecting an answer. Sometimes in dreams, when she says this, there's a reaction. His eyes open, and they're dark, they're rotting in his face, his tongue decayed into grey mash. His skin peels away from the bones of his face, stubborn strips of fat clinging like cobwebs. But here, the respirator churns and pushes, the low beeps and murmurs of his assorted machinery continue to fill the silence.

"I'm taking Quill to the beach this summer." She settles back into the chair, looks at her ruined manicure, considers relenting. They've assured her repeatedly that there is no way David can understand what she says, only that she is there and speaking. So he can hear me? He is in there, listening, right? Her voice trembling, the perfect shine of wifely concern lingering in her eyes, she asked them over and over again, can't I talk to him? Can't he hear? Carefully faked breakdown after breakdown, waiting with head bowed to listen to the nurses around the corner, whispering about devotion.

Devotion. Sure. "I'm taking Quill," she says again. "I'm taking your dog to the beach, David, and I'm going to bury him up to his head at high tide. And if he tries to get away, I'll break his legs first." She lowers her voice when she catches the squeaking of the night nurse's rubber-soled shoes in the hall, leans in again to stroke his wasted face.

She stands and grabs her purse from the nightstand. "It's the least I can do, darling. I'll see you next Monday."

--
For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Barb Black prompted me with "I guess we managed to dodge the bullet that time..." and I gave SAM this prompt: "Odin sacrificed himself to himself, and gave us eighteen runes and seventeen known charms or magical songs. He also learned an eighteenth, a secret song. Please write it down for us, weave it into a tale, or describe it and its effects."

Thursday, July 12

Grad School: A Horror Story

"Back," I cried, popping the whip from behind the wooden chair. The lion paid me no attention, shaking its ratty locks and yawning. The wave of his fishy breath would have knocked me over, had I not ducked behind the chair again.

Suddenly, the television behind me switched itself on. Good lord, I thought, I haven't seen this movie in over a decade! I dropped the whip and sat down on my chair. It was rather more comfortable than it looked. The lion called from the kitchen, "Do you want some popcorn?"

Then a commercial came on, and I decided to get to work--for real, this time. I booted the laptop and fired up the word processor, but to my horror, every icon I clicked brought up a new browser window. Tumblr kept updating, and I became Twitter famous. Then the lion's friends all wanted to become friends with me on Facebook, and they all wanted me to help them meet goals in those annoying browser games.

Luckily, my phone rang at that very instant. It was my best friend from college, calling to tell me all about her life as a stay-at-home mom of four. I put her on speakerphone and poured myself a stiff drink. The next thing I knew, it was four a.m. and the lion was dragging me gently to bed.

And that, my friends, is why I did not complete my section of our group assignment. Now, who's ready for Margarita Monday?

--
For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Michael gave me this prompt: ​"The history of my life is the history of the struggle between an overwhelming urge to write and a combination of circumstances bent on keeping me from it." -F.Scott Fitzgerald. I gave Jester Queen this prompt: Malaise.

Wednesday, June 27

Inverted Jenny

It is no good now, to relegate me to your desk, its rolling top accordioned down over aching limbs. You have crumpled me into a bundle of letters, long faded and tied with dusty ribbons.

In the old days, it was a brush, a teardrop tuft of some soft fur. You painted intricate characters on my skin and the ink slipped sweetly between us.

At dawn, I watched you scrub the tint from your hands and wished for an end to all mornings.

When you grew weary of darkness, the sharp nib of your fountain pen scratched indigo myth into my back, and red-ballpoint corrections flowed down each side. Once, you left a discourse in green marker, your declaration of independence stamped boldly at my waist. I thought that one true. It was the quickest to smudge, though your verdant prints lasted for days.  

Those nights of calligraphy stained me. Cuneiform shadows rise from my surfaces still, copper-brown or the cerulean of tranquil seas; but each dawn you returned to someone else's senses, ink trimmed carefully from your skin.

I am as patient as parchment, out of place, but I remember. However you inscribe me, emboss me, engrave me--by morning, the end of dreams is written plain.


--
For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Michael gave me this prompt: "'Think of writing as writing a letter to someone.' -Kurt Vonnegut. Write about mail, or post offices, or postal workers, or writing and receiving letters."
I prompted lisa with: "Pressing business, tonight at the brocade factory."

Wednesday, June 6

Musica Universalis

Summoned, they stand in a line. Their eyes are fixed firmly on the floor beneath their predecessor's feet, the finely figured black-and-white tiles laid over wide, cold space. They are not frightened of the empty spaces between the tiles; they do not quail at the rushing constellations that pass within inches of rough, bare flesh. Oh, she loves them, the Ophanim. Her children, the living embodiment, the material crossroads of imagination and desire.

She is safe in this space--space is a hall made of calligraphy, cradled in a lotus inscribed with the nine thousand names of the holy. She is the bearing upon which time itself balances, and every avatar, every incarnation stands, patient, waiting for her direction. She reclines, listening to the distant murmur of women.

When Lailah wakes, the scent of burning sugar mixed with perfume still hangs heavy in the air. She pulls her makeshift bedroll closer. The floor creaks gently as she curls under the window of the abandoned house, the stars keeping watch. She grips a dirty twist of waxed paper in her left hand, singing under her breath:

"I will make a new clay bowl and inscribe it with the names of those who have cursed me, I will fire it in the flames of the house of bondage and the house of weapons until you call back the curses, until you call them back in the names of the angels, until you bless in the names of the angels, until you repent in the nine thousand names of the holy, amen amen, selah."

She spits between her forked fingers and pulls the pipe from her sleeve. Her thin, pale fingers scrape the sticky black opium from the waxed paper, rolling it into a ball. She sticks it to the pipe and lights it, placing her lips to the mouthpiece and breathing in prophecy.

Selah.
--
For the Scriptic Prompt Exchange this week, Chelle gave me this prompt: "Time stood still as he/she watched..." and I gave lisa this prompt: "Puffy and Tina."