Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I hesitated in posting this. So often after a fresh post, visitors don't hop down to see the previous one, and I am really hoping that it won't get burried. But still, we are in the time of hot days and chill nights and I thought you'd like this.


We swallow sunshine while we can,
stoking up our solar souls,
laying by against the time,
when Summer goes,
and we, like moles,
burrow deep for warmer climes.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Sasha Kinski Tells a Joke

Sasha Kinski Tells a Joke

Sasha Kinski wants to tell a joke. He knows his English is very good, even though accented. Here is the joke: The teller says to a new acquaintance, “You know, I have CRS.” The listener wonders for a moment what kind of disease this is but before they can speak, the joke teller says, “CRS...can’t remember shit.” Sasha has heard this joke told twice and each time there is laughter.

And now Sasha is at a party. Two dozen or thirty people are standing in small clumps or sitting on the loft’s few furnishings. He has been conversing brilliantly, mentioning with casual humor some of the more amusing consumer products he grew up with in Poland in the seventies: the Trabant, that filthy, square and dangerous auto from East Germany, the splinter filled bathroom tissue, the counterfeit Coca-Cola. He knows the time is near for his joke.

Sasha is tall with dark, droop-eyed good looks. He wears an ill fitting sweater that seems perfect for him; very ethnic, but he doesn’t know this. The small accumulation of party goers near him likes his voice and slightly bear-like movement. One of the women, the one in the teal slacks, is considering what his big hands might mean and if she should make an effort to find out tonight. Some of the men are considering whether his mannerisms might be endearing to potential clients and whether, if they hired him, he might boost sales.

A woman has mentioned that her sister has been ill for the last week. Sasha clears his throat and says, “Well, you know, I have T.B.” Those near him pause. He clears his throat again and they take half a step back. Sasha begins to say, “Can’t remember shit,” and realizes that it doesn’t fit. He has erred, but he’s not certain of the meaning of T.B. Then he says, “Ah, T.B.—Tiny Bladder. I must go to the bathroom.” Two people point the way and step even further back as he suppresses a small cough.

Half way to the bathroom he looks back. The people are whispering and muttering to each other. The woman in the teal slacks is thinking, “What a pity. They are very big hands.”

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sending the Dream Away

Sending the Dream Away

The postage for the manuscript was over seven dollars: a cover letter, a synopsis and the allowed thirty pages of text. And the SASE. This buys transport for dreams away from my post office to New York and home again. Not hopes and dreams; just dreams. The hope stays with me.

A half hour after posting I check my mail box and laugh a single Ha, amused that some space in my heart is already looking for reply. And so it is every day after, from the impossible first week through the implausible second week and into the vaguely possible third week, waiting to see my own handwriting on the full manila package. There is the daily hot-chill, loose-tight gut as I walk to the mail box. Nothing. Of course.

And just as well. The twenty-four hours between postal drops is profitable for feeding hope. Without the almost certain rejection, I can read, in my mind, the perfect letter on its way to me. Phrases like, “You were cruel to send only the first thirty pages. Please, please send the rest by overnight mail.” Or just, “Yes!” hand written on expensive, engraved corporate letterhead.

The hope. The unrealized potential. The tension of the foreplay of the waiting for the dream to return. Between the sending and the reply, all potential is possible. The contract. The galleys. The cover. The book signing (a mahogany desk? A smooth, worn pine deal table? A card table?) Everything that could be, could be. The reviews. Oprah. Why not?

In the time before reply, the dream, in-transit, grows and the dream feeds the hope that stayed behind. Without the boiler-plate “Dear Contributor” the ever possible “Yes” remains.

And then the manila envelope comes back and with it the manuscript and the synopsis and clipped to the upper right corner, the five by eight inch, mint green “Dear Contributor...” And then, the next day, with fresh envelopes and fresh postage, the dream is again sent flying. And the hope stays home. And Oprah is real again.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Life as a Story

I learned a lot of things as I wrote the novel, Buck and Tangee: Things That Happened. One of the things was that not every word nor every scene works. Some things may be good, but they just don't make the cut...they don't fit. That's whats happening with the following five hundred words. The book took a different turn, and Mayanne became Tangee and this brief interchange never happened. I hate to waste things so here it is.

Life as a Story

Daylight Savings Time is good. Sitting on MayAnne’s front porch at eight o’clock at night, there was still a low clear sun to squint against. The slightest breeze pushed bugs and dust and dandelion fluffs past in lazy eddies.

The used-to-be-yellow lawn chair creaked as I turned to her and said, “Want to go to a show or something? Get a pizza?”

It didn’t much matter what we did, if anything at all. The plan was that later on we’d get all naked and sweaty, but for now most anything would be okay.

Her daughter, Angel, looked over from her book. “Couldn’t we, like, do something real? What’s the point? Movies and pizza. There’s no point in that.”

“Movies are fun and pizza is food. How much more real do you need?”

“It’s like we’re wasting everything,” she said. “Time and life and everything.”

Angel is sixteen; baggy jeans and a too tight tee shirt. She was bright and she knew it and she was stuck here and she knew that, too.

“Everything has to contribute to the plot,” she said, leaning against the porch railing. “That’s how stories go. That’s how novels go. It makes sense. It’s the one thing that Mr. Eiler said last year in English that did make sense. When you write a book or something, everything has to contribute to the plot. She wagged her straight brown hair off of her face and waited for rebuttal.

“This here is life,” said MayAnne. “This ain’t no story. And I don’t want to sit in the movies. It’s a nice night and there’s some of our funny shows on TV. Pizza’s good-just remember to get your mushrooms and stuff on your half. I don’t want to have to go picking mushrooms off my side.”

MayAnne has beautiful little feet. They were in tennis shoes at the moment, but later she’d scuff them off in front of the TV and I’d rub her toes.

“This might be life,” Angel was saying, “but it wouldn’t make much of a story. It wouldn’t get a D in class. Nobody’d ever buy this book.”

“Well that’s just fine with me, Missy, because this life ain’t for selling.” MayAnne was getting a little defensive. “It’s just for living. That’s what people do. They live. It’s the books that ain’t real. Besides, what are you doing that’s so important? You ain’t got no plot either. Unless you’re doing something with Bradley that you shouldn’t be doing. That kind of plot will get you in trouble. Next thing you know, you’re going to be pregnant and I’ll be stuck with the baby and you’ll wind up on welfare or something.”

“Ma, we haven’t even done anything and you got me on welfare already.”

Of course Angel and Bradley were doing something and their plot had advanced a whole lot further than she was saying. But I figured saying something wouldn’t be all that helpful, even if it would make our story a little more interesting for a while.