For Kevin

I want to tell you a story about an angel.  I want to tell you a story about a man.  I want to tell you a story about a man and an angel together.

Many years ago, nearly twenty five by my reckoning although it may be more or less, in a place far far away I knew a man… a man-child… who had a heart big enough to span mountains, to wash away your tears and replace them with laughter, a man who wrote the most amazing poetry… things of such stunning beauty and strength and yet so fragile they took your breath away.

It was a time when we were trying on skins of the adults we would become, or hoped to become, or perhaps never wished we’d be.  It was a time of sodden streets and lamp posts, of frightful highs and lows so bottomless light would never penetrate.  It was a time for dancing and laughing and red beans and rice and endless bottles of cheap Rolling Rock clutched against skin wet with Northampton’s summer and the promise it held.

I was drowning in it… reveling in it, cock walking through it and being sick in it all at once.  This man, my friend, that gentle soul, saw through my fears, the heart scars that etched themselves across my flesh in interesting patterns and he reached out his hand and beckoned to me and said ‘I know.’

I was not there, not quite… in that place.  I almost fit in… almost.  But whether it was for comic relief or something else entirely he narrowed a yawed chasm so that I would not fall in.  He snuck me into places I shouldn’t have been and talked to me for hours in the deep dark that comes so late at night in Western Massachusetts when it’s too cloying and dangerous to sleep.

We talked about Spanish moss and kudzu and the rich stink of his hometown washed clean with gin and tonics.  We talked about everything and we talked about nothing and none of it mattered, not really… except that it did matter.  It mattered a great deal to me as I ran back and forth from a leaden pendulum that caught at my clothes and never let me forget time was fleeting.

When I think of him, when I reach back across the years to see, he is only ever in shadow and profile, kicked back on a porch with a beer in his hand the light from inside playing off his face as he spoke, as cigarette smoke made tendrils around his face as his voice silenced the crickets and made the moon pay attention.

After one of his sojourns home he brought me a present.  Wrapped up in the cheap paper that spoke of its origin, he tossed the parcel in my hand and I unwrapped it, this gift, this thing from so far South I could barely imagine it.

It was an angel.  Well truthfully it is a cherub, all fat and clutching a harp… but in my eyes it was an angel.  It was redemption and safety.  A beacon.  This clay, not even bisque, transformed in my palm.

I took that angel home with me, rough and pink and fragile and I tapped a nail in the wall of my cheap apartment and I hung it up.

Time passed and the moments of summer gave way to the rigors of the real world and I slipped back into my skin, a skin, shook the moss from my breasts and dried my body and my tears and lived.

We drifted, he and I, in and out of conjoined circles and finally apart as the weeks gave way to months and even a year until finally we remained standing on opposite sides of that chasm he closed for me.  I like to imagine that if it had happened that way we would have waved at each other and traded a knowing smile.

The angel remained.

And when I moved that sweet little thing came with me… over and over and over.   Clay became idol became talisman became ritual.

Every time I’d pull up stakes from apartment to town to city across the country and then back again over the years that little angel was my first and final ritual.  The last thing taken off the wall over the front door of my home, she’d be tucked in my bag for whatever roads led forward and she be the first thing up.  Before tea, before a cigarette, before anything that angel goes up above my front door.   She is a welcome and a protector.  A reminder that we are safe, that we are loved and that we can do anything.

My friend… the gentle soul who placed this little bit of magic in my hands so many years ago… he is gone.  The news of his death in January has touched me in ways I hadn’t expected.   I know this is only one small piece of the great man he was.  But it is my piece and his piece together.

I will never forget.


Stagnation

You can’t hear it… but I have just sighed.  A small exhalation of breath which did little more than stir one cat from sleep and serve to remind me that I have forgotten… forgotten who I am and what I do and all the things inside me that are dying to get out yet get pushed back and down and filed away for ‘later.’

I was having a conversation with a friend last week and he said that as one gets older the brain doesn’t process, focus, retain, create in the same way it did when we were young and enthusiastic and not quite so tired.  Perhaps that is my problem.  Perhaps it is just laziness.

So I can rouse myself from stupor… or take his advice and suck the marrow and juice from the bones of 20 year old spitfires and cast them into a pit – dry husks whose energy has been removed for my use.   Such a hard choice to make!


Wicked Weather

I have been trying to put my childhood in some sort of order recently and have been finding that the memories come as a series of snapshots.  This is one of them.

And she is six and it is raining – a summer storm that drenches and quenches the earth and wind whips the trees low and lower still so the birds fly out with raucous cry and tender leaves not yet set to their stalk wrench and fall out and down to skewer the grass in a violent way that stirs something in her.  It’s wicked weather she would think, if she were old enough to understand wickedness in all its glory.

She hears the first rumble of thunder that presages the worst of the passing storm and lifts her eyes up to the skies, black and roiling, punctuated with energy and jagged rents that tear through everything.  Her small mouth opens in a wet o, all child lips and round eyes and her fine hair crackles as a bolt lands near by.

If it’s raining, you must use an umbrella, her mother has said to her before and she knows that this is true, that the black pall of fabric and wire keeps things safe and keeps them dry.  That when an umbrella is open your patent shoes don’t get wet and your dress won’t lose its starch.

Umbrella in hand she eases open the door with only one look back to see if she has been spotted.  Out into the rain she goes, onto the decking that juts off the house on the second floor and she is up off the ground some twenty feet, face to face with the weeping willow that fights the winds with every groan of her branches.

Another crack of thunder, a gash of light across the sky and she stops as the air shifts around her, ripples with energy that is cold and hot all in one.  She is getting wet and she remembers that she is still clutching the umbrella and now she unfurls it and fights the wind for it and comes away victorious.  It won’t turn inside out and she raises it up high in both hands as another clap and bolt come now, nearly over the house.

The wind turns her and she stops trying to guess which way it will go and gives into the fury and force and beauty of the weather and lets it move her, moves within it, becomes it as her feet butterfly the boards beneath her and she begins to spin in the rain.  She laughs and spins and is whipped by gusts that should, by rights, take her off the deck and sail her out into the sky.

She’s laughing and screaming and laughing, and upon completing one of many turns she sees her mother, very angry, coming to the door eyes snapping a warning staccato in time to her heels on the floor, but the girl doesn’t care, and turns her back to the house and lets the umbrella fly as an enormous explosion rattles the woods around her.  Raising her arms up and throwing her head back, she lets her dress lose its starch and she dances.  She is breathing water and wind and air and light and she has no fear.  She lives.  She lives.  She lives.  She dances.


It’s only Rant ‘n’ Roll…and I love it.

Greetings Luvvies.  I was going to blog today, but I’m a teeny tiny bit cranky.  So I went through some hideously old files and found a little bit written probably, oh gosh, eight or ten years ago for Goldmine Magazine.  I can’t even remember if they ended up publishing it.  I think I frightened the editor.  So here you are….a little rant from the bottom of my heart.

Whiny Women In Rock

An ancient and wise prophet once said: if you don’t like what you read or see – then close your damn eyes or shut the book.

Call me un-PC, call me an anti feminist, call me anything you want to, but don’t call me wrong!  What’s up with all these  whiny women in rock?  Now, I’ll be the first one to cry out (a la Martha  Stewart) that “Angst – it’s a good thing”, but honestly do we  really need to be assaulted with it 24/7, by some snivelling tank- top wearing, nipple displaying brat on MTV and MOR radio?  I  think not. Remember the understated, snarling passion of Janis, Patti, and Siouxie?  Now those women knew what to do with a little self-pity!

And we’re not talking about the bubblegum pap of Britney or Christina, nor even the “secret” riot grrrl movement (who actually almost pull it off)… we’re not even talking about Courtney Love – she’s got her own category.  The offences instead lie with the Fionas, Alanis’s, Leahs and Jewels of this brave new world.  And, goodness gracious, kudos to them for getting off their asses and  doing something, but really… are they actually furthering the empowerment of women?

Rape, incest, and death, oh my!  While Jewel is bitching  about having to live (at her own initiative) in a van (boo hoo), Leah instead prefers to tackle these other, grim, subjects – taken allegedly from her own life observations.  Now pardon me, but  after seeing these very stories on TV over bran flakes and black coffee every morning, then dealing with them again at a shamanistic, repressed memory scream therapy session before enduring an hour and a half of traffic on the way to work, do we really need to flip on the alt/guitar/i’m-not-as-young-as-I-used to-be radio station to hear it all over again?  I’d rather not.  Quite honestly, if she’s that trashed already, she needs therapy more than I do.

Then there’s Alanis – Jagged Little Pill my ass. Honey, you’re from Canada – it’s mellow up there, you don’t need a pill.  Plus she hit the television screen on Nickelodeon at twelve years old (how tough is that?), and I have a friend, who shall remain  nameless, but his initials are….  Well, he swears Alanis is really Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters.  Or was it vice versa?  I can never remember until the Prozac kicks in.

And Fiona, my God, girlfriend – put some damn clothes on  and eat something! And quit whining about your sex life – just  wait until you get older then you’ll really have something to  whine about. Here’s a little tip – no one has sex over 30.  For  some strange reason, many of my male friends find her absolutely luscious.  Oddly, most of them are married and, like me, are thirty-something (Oh come on – I admit it!  If I were 20 do you  think I’d be complaining?).  I haven’t polled my friends, the wives, about this strange phenomenon yet and don’t think I will – just to keep the  – “What does SHE have that I don’t!  I can’t  believe YOU think she’s hot.  Now, GO TAKE OUT THE TRASH!” –  kind of thing at a minimum.  Besides, no one has ever yet accused me of meddling.

Don’t get me wrong, women’s voices need to be strong, no matter the profession.  Seventy cents on the dollar still doesn’t cut it – and what better medium than music to spread a message of strength.  But somehow, these girls seem to have gone astray.

Yes, it sucks when your relationship is ending.  And abuse, rape, incest, abortion are truly wrenching subjects that should be addressed.  But what about tackling some other topics once in a while – ones that will instil a feeling of activism  rather than  making one actively reach for another Valium? What about fair wages, what about that fact that unless you separate credit  arrangements at the beginning of a marriage, you will find you  have no credit when your shitty marriage ends in divorce? It’s one in two, so get your finances in order.

What about getting a fair crack in the old boys network professions that still dominate the workplace?  None of these issues have gone away.  They just lurk under the surface of a self-satisfying, self indulgent, self-gratifying generation of  women who are too busy getting in touch to get in touch.

Okay, so subjects like these aren’t “sexy” (whatever that means these days), aren’t “hip” and certainly won’t get you on  the cover of “Rolling Stone” – LIZ PHAIR IN EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK LYRIC SHOCKER.  But still these seem far fresher targets for the bitterness that abounds in these current alt/angst canons.  But of course, that’s just me.  And really, I’m the last one  who’d campaign for a proliferation of happiness in song. Really. Ask any of my friends.

But sometimes, the oppression of letting all our “feelings” hang out becomes a little too much to bear.  Believe me I’d let it all hang out too, if hang weren’t fast becoming the operative word.  Where are the Cure when you need them?   And  don’t even get me started on the guys who belt out “Hand In My Pocket” or “Little Sister” to show that they, too, understand how “we” feel, and they share “our” pain.  Give me a break, I’ll give you some pain.

Okay, I know, I’m not 15 years old any more and blah blah blah blah.  Well, too bad.  Please don’t peddle your personal wares under the guise (however mislabeled by the press it may by) of feminism and women’s empowerment. It’s boring, and it’s been done to death.   And I know I’m not the only one out there who feels the way I do.  My friend and I are starting a club – it’s called Women Against Women In Rock.  Anybody want to join?

So now I’ve had my rant and committed the great no no of  journalism – getting personal. So fire me.  Am I bitter – you bet!  Does that upset me?  Are you kidding – I thrive on it!  I suppose one could argue, therefore, that I’m really no different to the Alanis’s, Jewels and Fionas of this world.  Just, perhaps, a teeny tiny bit older.  But if you want to argue, too bad. You’ll have to excuse me, the midmorning news is on and that  means it’s time for my double scotch and Xanax.  (AH)


Winter

In case it has escaped anyone’s attention, it’s snowing in Delaware.  A lot.  More than a lot, actually.  This is a good old New England Nor’Easter plain and simple.  This is the snow of my childhood.

As a child I would have been beside myself with joy.  Snowed in for days – check!  Building snowmen – check!!  Cooking stew on the woodstove as they did in “olden times”  – check!!!  Making a snow tunnel and fort – check!!!!  Full snowsuit, boots, hat, scarf and mittens ensemble – check!!!!!

As a grownup, though, I am looking at all this snow and sighing.  Deeply.  But only when I look out the front to the driveway and our street which will not be plowed. Surveying the yard in the back garden even I  have to admit  that the view is just exquisite, with deep drifts piling up against the fence and snow falling silently in the woods beyond.

And it does remind me of my childhood.  There were snows, then, deep in the hinterlands of Massachusetts that would keep us buried for days on end.  Did we care?  Not one fig!  Where did we have to go, after all?  Nowhere, that’s where, and we loved every minute of it.  There would be hot chocolate  made with full fat milk and loaded with marshmallows; my Dad and I would have snowball fights and then bring in more wood from the stack so my mother could get something cooking on the stove, because inevitably we would have lost power.  We were warm and dry and safe and we played games by lamplight and told stories and yes, it was that idyllic.

By day five I’m sure it wasn’t quite so nice…..the extended scene is almost certainly painted by the brushstrokes of youth.  We had a well.  No power = no running water = … you get the picture.

Today, I’m not going to remember that part of winter blizzards.  Why tarnish the memory and frizzle the reality of what, apparently, is one of those “Storms of the Century?”  Nope, I’m going to make some hot chocolate with full fat milk (no marshmallows, alas), read a book, and recapture the excitement of my youth – when Narnia was just a lamp post away.


Longing

Summer, 1989

It’s irrational, this longing, this lust and I can’t quite believe how my body betrays me, but it’s something that cannot be helped.  Compulsion and heat are my companions even as I laugh in derision at my own stupidity.  Because this will not end well.  You are too young, too caught up in your own fancies and your atheistic attitudes towards love.  But it’s not love I want from you. What I want from you is to feel your heart beat against my body, to smell the sweet raw animal of your flesh, to hear the whisper of your voice against my hair, telling me you want me, you need me, you are unable to take a breath without me.

It’s how we sit on my bed, you and I, at night with the curtains drawn and the city damped down in the dark.  I shiver, hairs raised and you are next to me and I wait, because I will never make the first move. Your eyes and hair are so very dark against your skin and it nearly makes me senseless, looking at you, jaw-chiseled and so alive, but just below the surface a seething and roiling that I am too eager to stop.

I turn my back to you just so, and when I glance back over my shoulder I can just see you out of the corner of my eye, looking at the long arch of my neck and my face in shadowed profile. I can feel your hunger, anticipate the struggle you have not to touch me, because it is not wise, you think. We are driving blind, I said to you the other day, laughing for the seriousness of the situation and I know that you won’t hold back much longer.  You have scented me now.

Time stops, the world slips back to nothing as your arms come around my body and draw me back to you and I am a moment in stasis; I will not draw air for fear of breaking the spell too soon.  And when I do it’s deep down to the bottom of my lungs and the exhalation is exquisite as my body becomes oxygen rich and liquid against you.

That moment lasts forever, it seems, and I say nothing, just listen to your heart beating against the bones of my back as it syncs with mine – feral and languid, both.  We are fragile, in our way.  Your cheek brushes my hair and I stretch my neck to the side, and invitation, an offering.  Your breath catches rough as I move and I know your desire; I know your weakness; I know your strength.  I know you have pushed past restraint as your lips touch my skin, soft supplication and I am swan-like in effigy as I bend to my need.

Lips give way to mouth and pressure and movement as you devour the long arc and your hands grip my wrists so that I cannot move, am held tight against you and my longing wells up so rich and wide that all I can do is bite hard against a cry so guttural it would send the birds to wing.  It is an eternity, this moment, this movement and I am delirious.  I’d cry out to God if that were my way, but for now I am drowning, I am dying, and for the most fleeting of moments I love you.


Idiots at work

OK .  This has been sticking in my craw for a while now.  I read an article last week detailing how the Coca-Cola corporation is using renewable sources to manufacture their bottles.  They are going green.  “Fantastic!,” I thought to myself.  And then I kept reading.  In order to cut their carbon footprint, they have developed a way to transform plant material into PET plastic.  Outstanding.  I’m still on board.

One of the plants they are using is sugarcane.

Hold it – hold it just one damn moment.  Now, I am all for greening up the planet.  But using sugarcane to make a bottle that is going to be filled with yummy goodness suspended in high fructose corn syrup?  You have got to be kidding.  Well, I actually didn’t use the word kidding, but you get my drift.

Let it sink in, my friends.  Using SUGARCANE – a plant which produces…wait for it…SUGAR for their bottles beggars belief.  High fructose corn syrup is one of the most insidiously detrimental additives we have.  It’s cheap, yes, but it causes all sorts of health problems and is a key factor in the rise of obesity in our country  – and really, you just shouldn’t put that shit in your body, period.

Here’s a thought….why not put the sugar from the sugarcane plant in the coke?  Return the classic carbonated cola to it’s true state and then use the byproduct from the plant to help  planet with a nice, eco-friendly  bottle?

I’m sure there are all sorts of sound reasons why this wouldn’t happen; cost, time, pencil-pushing bureaucratic flow chart hypothesis….  Who knows.  There’s a good reason I’m not numbered in the ranks of big business. But doesn’t it make sense?  Doesn’t it?

On a related note, Pepsi is selling their “thowback” soda at the moment.  It’s packed with real, pure, honest to goodness delicious white sugar.  And yes, I did a happy dance in the aisle at the grocery store when I found it.


Milky Tea

Milky Tea

There was never anything nicer, you know, than when you would make me milky tea.  I was just a child, small and wide-eyed, sitting at the table after school in my scuffed Mary-Janes and ruffled dress.  You knew I never wanted to wear pants like the boys did.

You would be there after school, waiting for me when I came through the door, off the bus and down the road like a shot.  You were my mother then, doing what mothers were supposed to do.  It was when you were still tender, before you broke; before we broke together; before I wanted to kill you and before I wanted to die.

You talked to me like I was somebody.  Asked me questions about my day – the petty playground grievances that are only interesting to someone who is seven and even if you feigned your interest it didn’t matter.  Because in those moments, you were my world and I yours.  It was too early for cocktail hour and you weren’t so sad then, or if you were it didn’t show, didn’t bleed metallic into the very fabric of our lives.

My feet kicking the rungs of the chair, adding more marks to my sturdy shoes, I’d watch you boil water in the big copper kettle on the stove and feel the steam warm the kitchen, keeping the November chill at bay, pushing shadows back from the house as they crept silently in from the forest that surrounded us. You were a witch of sorts. I know you were, in that house in the hollow at the edge of the swamp, buried behind a cloak of leaves and brush and branches that piked up toward the autumn moon.

Water into the cups and the tea would steep while I showed you my work and eyed the cookies that were still warm from the oven.  You made yours strong, but only let the bag be washed gently in my cup – I was too young for tea, of course, but you made sure I felt like a grown-up little girl.  With creamy milk and two whole spoons of sugar the ritual was complete and we would sit, companionably, two ladies at table with their tea and their talk.

Magic exists in this world, I know it does. And if ever anyone needed proof, then milky tea would stand above any grimoire or incanted spell, any trick of smoke and mirrors.  The steam off the cup, the light in the kitchen, the smell of warm sugar – these mundane ingredients came together willing the dark out of the corners, out of your own body – if only for a little while. I could be seven and I would be safe and I knew, without words, that I was truly loved.

You continue to exist for me in that simple cup – not the mother you thought you were, or the mother you became, but the mother I choose to remember.  So many years later, I conjure you up in that kitchen with the kettle, when my husband, that gentle man, brings me a cup just as you made it, for no other reason than he always knows when I need to be seven.


Apologies to subscribers

Good Sunday morning.

Apologies for the absolutely asinine posts that have been coming to your inbox this morning.  I am tech backwards and after much twiddling and fiddling have finally got the page set up to send notifications of blog posts to you.

Sorry, for the wtfs!

xoxo


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