Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Mirrored Lantern

A Mirrored Lantern

It was twenty minutes into the power failure before Arthur finally decided to light a flame. It took that long for him to decide that it was a semi-permanent situation, find the faux pewter lantern and fill the base with oil. He set the lamp on an end table and stared into the light. His girlfriend, Allison, stared too.

“It’s pretty,” she said.

Arthur didn’t answer.

The glow was generally kind to him, giving a warm color to his skin that light bulbs and sunshine failed to do. But it was unkind as well, making the slight wrinkles around his eyes look deeper and old. Allison was twenty years younger and didn’t need the help, but her tan now took on an even more golden glow.

“I wish I had more than one lantern,” Arthur said. “We had a pair of them, but I don’t know where the other one is.” The “we” was Arthur and his ex-wife. Allison noted the “we” but didn’t care much and said nothing.

“I wonder,” said Arthur, “if I put a mirror behind it, if that would double the amount of light? It would have to, wouldn’t it? I mean, it would be like two flames.”

“I don’t know,” said Allison. She was wondering if the power was out at her apartment and how long the ice cream would stay frozen. She snuggled closer to Arthur and rested her hand on his thigh.

“Or if I had two mirrors, would it be like having three lights.”

“Oh, A. J.,” she said, “I don’t know. It couldn’t be, really. Then why would people ever have more than one lamp or candle or anything in a room? Don’t you suppose that even before people had electric lights, some one would have thought of that?” She brought her hand up higher on his leg.

“I think we have an old mirror in the garage,” he said. Arthur was forty-five, loved sex, and especially loved it now with Allison. But now was not the time. Later in the evening would be the time; after the power came back on, he could turn out the lights and they could go upstairs.

He stood up, took his weak little flashlight in his hand and opened the door in the family room that accessed the garage. He was back five minutes later. “Well, I thought we had one.”

“I think,” said Allison, “that all a mirror would do would be to catch the light that’s going the other way and bounce it back this way.”

“Still, wouldn’t that double the brightness?”

“Maybe,” she said. “Maybe it just returns the light that’s wasted on the wall. But still, there’s only so much light in one flame.”

Arthur sat back down. Allison sat straight, her hands folded in her lap, wondering if her cat was afraid of the dark. Probably not.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Rolling Sevens

Yeah, another poem. Stewart, you can click out now if you wish. And yeah, it's wierdly indented, and frankly I don't care much for cleverly formatted poems, but you see, if I can't read it to you in person, I have to use such breaks to approximate verbal cues like the un-notable micro comma, and the half breath. Hell, read it any way you want.


How long can you keep rolling sevens?
How long,
until you meet
that snake's beady eyes?
Your search for a small piece of Heaven's
not consistantly wise.

It seems that your victories are hollow;
Your winnings recover
things you don't need.
It's becoming a life that you follow,
not one that you lead.

You’ve always been a gambler;
your wagers on credit,
your betting's an art;
none of your principals,
but all of your heart.

Time now to leave the Casino,
taking your winnings,
still using your wits;
your final jackpot
and calling it quits.

A piece of my heart, it goes with you;
And all of the rest of me
stays here to play.
I'm due to start rolling some sevens,
Now that you're making a clean getaway.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Dog Next Door

Five months ago I determined that this would not become a cancer blog. There was nothing interesting to say about the diagnosis, the treatments or my feelings about it. Now, in my second round of chemo, I feel better and can step back a bit. The neuropathy has withdrawn to be a minor tingling in my right foot. My hands are okay; I can write with a ballpoint and my typing is much less dislexic. For what it's worth, this is what I thought about today:

The Dog Next Door

The dog next door has learned a new word. Prone on the ground he goes, “Wortle, wortle, wortle.” I think it means, “Here I am, here I am, here I am.” Other dog words mean, “There you are, there you are, there you are.”

As I sit on my back deck reading, the neighbor dog is my dog, separated only by a fence. I sit on my back deck, the upper level, the south-east corner, out of the sun. The chemicals in my body would make me burn. I mow the lawn in a long sleeved shirt.

I am generally quite confined now. The chemicals in my body would make someone else’s cold my pneumonia. I wear a white mask when I go out; a molded B cup of some kind of pressed paper. A face bra, strung around my ears with elastic. The first days I wore it I felt foolish and self conscious and pitiable. I think that people think that I have some illness that I might give them rather than the other way around. They stare at my nose bra. Lately I care less. Let them look. Wortle, wortle wortle.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Here's something different: No guns, no angst, no quaisi-deep thoughts...not even proper grammar.
This poem is meant to be read aloud with a two year old on your lap, and as you read you are required to supply hand-motions.

Go Quick

Go, go; quick, quick
caterpiller on a stick
see her little legs go
zoop, zoop, zoop.

Run, run; more, more
doggie running on the floor
see his furry feet fly
clickity, clickity, click.

Hop, hop; rapid, rapid
faster than a bunny rabbit
see her little paws jump
plonk, plonk, plonk.

Hurry, hurry; soon, soon
faster than the passing moon
see it hide behind a cloud

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The following is from the November 1993 issue of Harper's magazine andis therefore probably illegal to copy. So here it is anyway.


From an interview with Fran Lebowitz in the Sum­mer issue of The Paris Review. Lebowitz is the au­thor of two collections of essays, Metropolitan Life and Social Studies. Since the latter book was pub­lished in 1981 , Lebowitz has been at work on a nov­el, to be titled Exterior Signs of Wealth; she recently completed the first chapter. The interview was con­
ducted by James Linville, the managing editor of The Paris Review, and by George Plimpton, the journal's editor.

INTERVIEWER: Did you ever enjoy writing? FRAN LEBOWITZ: I used to love to write. As a
child I used to write all the time. I loved to write up until the second I got my first professional writ­ing job. It turns out it's not that I hate to write. I hate, simply, to work. I just hate to work, peri­od. I am profoundly slothful. Practically inert. I have' no energy. I never have. I just have no de­sire to be productive. Now that I realize I don't hate to write, that I just hate to work, it makes
writing easier. .
INTERVIEWER: When did you realize this? LEBOWITZ: Recently. In the past six months
I've had an easier time writing. I broke this ten­year writer's block.
INTERVIEWER: What did you do during those years?
LEBOWITZ: I sulked. Sulking is a big effort. So is not writing. I only realized that when I did start writing. When I started getting real work done, I realized how much easier it is to write than not to write. Not writing is probably the most exhausting profession I've ever encoun­tered. It takes it out of you. It's very psychically wearing not to write-I mean if you're supposed to be writing.
INTERVIEWER: Is that because the ideas come steaming along and you feel like you should put them down and you don't?
LEBOWITZ: Not writing is more of a psycho­logical problem than a writing problem. All the

time I'm not writing I feel like a criminal. Ac­tually, I suppose that's probably an outmoded phrase, because I don't think criminals feel like criminals anymore. I feel like criminals used to feel when they felt guilty about being criminals, when they regretted their crimes. It's horrible to feel felonious every second of the day. Espe­cially when it goes on for years. It's much more relaxing actually to work. .
Still, I don't get nearly the amount of work done that I read other people do. This is what most interests me in interviews with writers.
I'm not interested in the thoughts or ideas of these people, I only want to know how many pages a day they wrote. If I could meet Shake­speare, I would ask, "What time do you get up? Do you write at night?" I don't know many writ­ers. I don't have many friends who are writers. But as soon as I meet any, as soon as I can fig­ure out that it's not too intimate a question to ask them, which is about six seconds after I meet them, I say, "How many words do you write a day?"
INTERVIEWER: Why do you want to know that? LEBOWITZ: SO I can compare myself to them.
INTERVIEWER: Hemingway used to write down
the number every day and post it on a piece of cardboard on top of his bureau.
LEBOWITZ: I count my words, too. I was once at Sotheby's looking at some furniture. Just look­ing. This guy whom I knew came over and asked if I'd like to look at a Twain manuscript that was going to be for sale. I constantly have to dis­abuse people of the notion that I can afford things like Twain manuscripts. I said I'd love to look at it but I can't afford it. He showed it to me. A short story. He was telling me about the manuscript and where they found it and every­thing.
He said, "I'm pretty knowledgeable about Twain, but there's one thing we don't under­stand. We've called in a Twain scholar."
I said, "What is that?"
He said, "See these little numbers? There are
these little numbers every so often. We just don't know what those are."
I said, "I do. I happen be a Twain schol­ar, but I happen to be a scholar of little numbers written all over the place. He was counting the words."
The Sotheby's man said, "What are you talk­
ing about? That's ridiculous!"
I said, "I bet you anything. Count."
He counted the words and saw that I was right.
He said, "Twain must've been paid by the word."
I said, "It may have nothing to do with being paid by the word." Twain might have told him­self he had to write this many words a day, and he would wonder, Am I there yet? Like a little kid in the back of a car: Are we there yet?