Archive for May, 2009

Sky caves

Clouds, Albuquerque

Clouds, Albuquerque - from Albuquerque Daily Photo

Sky caves collect where ice and air interact with heat and wind. I collect sky caves. I collect sky caves and gather them high where the clouds are piled. The clouds are piled and at the top the ice crystals form. I wait.

The winds blow, the grasses lay flat, storm crashes against the sky bottom all at once, and then there is fire. I gather the fire and pour it into the river and it boils up again into the sky, where it hits the sky caves with a great crash and then there is rain.

There is rain, sent down by the air gods, not me; they gather the ice and shake it hard with fire. When it comes down to earth the trees hold their hands up and shake their wild heads and laugh and cry all at once. The tree people cry for water, joy and sex soaking into the roots, and for pain as their arms are broken and thrown down in the wind, and the branches lay on the ground, which is clay mud and runs red like blood to the river. The ground is a river running red with mud, my collection has shattered, glass in shards have scattered and broken against the bosque floor. The sun warms, the water runs fast, the morning birds wake. They sing the air gods to sleep, high in the sky caves that rest, now, silent and still in the thin air.


20 minutes, writing group. Topic: Ice. Thank you, Mike!

To see a storm in central New Mexico, see the link below from You Tube. My neighborhood has more cottonwoods, wild giant trees, being in the bosque itself, but this is beautiful viewing also.

** The embedding feature for this video is disabled, but you can still watch it by clicking on the You Tube logo. My understanding of protocol in You Tube is limited, for now.


Inspector Morse and the needlepoint murder


Inspector Morse brushed aside the corn husk and the corn silk that lightly covered the body. Beneath it, and innocent looking it was, lay a brave little embroidery hoop, with a needlepoint sampler half done. “We all wander in this vale of tears. Find happiness in …..” it read. The thread dangled off, an incomplete thought hanging there, expectant.

“No needle,” Morse said, to himself. He felt tired. “Another day, another corpse,” he said under his breath, imagining this cheery motto done nicely on a pillow cover in his Aunt Edna’s parlor. Loved his Aunt Edna, he had. Still missed her cookies. What was that she’d done with marshmallows and chocolate bars? Well, she’d been gone a long time. He shook himself back to the present, where this corpse was sitting quietly in her chair, hand still holding the hoop as if ready to take one more stitch. Eyes open and staring out, or past. Contemplating, those eyes might almost be.

Morse thought he’d have a nice vacation, that had been his intention. That’s what brought him to this quiet old town of aunties, church fundraisers, and bakeries. He’d pictured himself sitting in someone’s front room with a cup of tea in one hand and a plate of jam tarts in the other. But death follows the inspector, he told himself. He brushed the ashes off his suit jacket and damned himself for starting to smoke again. He damned the nice local constable who asked him, just as a matter of courtesy, to come in on this needlepoint death. He considered ways to excuse himself, pointing out the obvious: elderly women die in their sleep, it is 3 in the afternoon on a warm summer day, and she’d obviously nodded off, permanently. He opened his mouth to say so, when the young officer held out his hand and gave Morse the corn husk.

“Way I see it,” he says. “Is she’d about finished with the corn – she made corn dolls and sold them like Indian made for tourists in the states – that’s how she kept a little extra money coming in. Anyway, she’d done with the corn and set it aside to do her needlework.”

“Yes,” Morse said, almost leaving off the question mark. “And then?”

“Well, I guess she must’ve fallen asleep, don’t you?” The young man’s red eyebrows wagged a bit, and he looked at Morse for help. Morse looked again at the quiet body, the corn, the needlework. Why am I here? He asked himself, feeling foolish, feeling automatic. The automatic inspector. His eyes scanned the chair, the hoop, the thread, then up to the woman’s face. Her face was upturned, eyes china blue, her expression pleased, expectant. Her hair was slightly mussed. He thought she might want to reach up and tidy it, just a bit. He leaned over and looked at the back of her head, where the hairpins would ordinarily keep her hair well contained. There, at the base of the neck, he saw it. A small red dot, a shiny metallic point. A needle, neatly inserted into the base of her skull. A murder, here in the quiet village where he’d come to regain his sanity. He sighed, and fingered his pocket for his smokes. Time to step outside and think, for just a moment.

Writing practice, 25 minutes. See the Inspector Morse TV series, or the books, by Colin Dexter, for more on the source of this character.

Georgia and Tom on the Oregon Coast


“You get a line and I’ll get a pole, honey, honey. You get a line and I’ll get a pole, babe. You get a line, I’ll get a pole, we’ll go down to the fishing hole, honey oh babe oh mine.”

Tom couldn’t help singing. Tom hitched a ride with his happy thumb on his way to Anchorage Alaska, where he intended to build an igloo and marry himself an Inuit girl, skin seal and harvest amethyst in the frozen ice caves of Siberia. Tom was a born entrepreneur, but a southerner too, at heart, and it got too dang cold for him just about midway up the coast of Oregon and he never made it to Alaska. Stopped in Gorgeous, Oregon, in the deep wet forest that runs along the west coast. For a year or two he lived on blackberries and fish and his hair grew long and shaggy. He slept too hard to snore, and was too unreconstructed to think about farming, or storing, or hardship.

Oregon is a fine plentiful place for people who don’t mind a little rain, and Tom got comfortable, although not soft. One summer he gave forestry a try, strip cutting a corner of the Kalmiopsis near Biscuit, but he found he could not bear to cut the tree people. There is more bleeding in a tree than he’d ever felt in a salmon, though he could not explain that to himself or the woman who eventually convinced him to put his shoes back on and get out of the tree. He became a spokesman for trees, a miner of bees, he cultivated honey, and made a little money. Then he planted gobble sum and toad willow and buddha fingers and poultry rhymes. He opened a nursery on the edge of a small state road where people who were not in quite such a hurry might stop and talk and buy a cold drink, a Yoohoo or a Sierra Mist. He sold plants and named them himself, as much the inventor of his own roadside stand as any other stepaway of that particular time and place.

The Oregon coast is green, wet, mossy, and cool. At one time (at the time of this story, in fact), there were not many signs or arrows pointing to particular destinations, and it was not unusual for strangers to lose their way. They might find themselves slipping from a long low road into an awning of dripping willows, lining the drive where Tom lived with his trees and the woman he eventually married. Her name was Berry, who stings the fingers and stains the mouth, but she was sweet on Tom and he on her, and this worked, out there in the small stone house where they lived together, with their bees, their honeysuckle, their ginger snap trail blossoms and their two-fingered lobulus marionettes. The garden was fresh and they grew herbs, and kept a few chickens, and wrote some books about living in Alaska and building igloos out of ice and amethyst, and swimming with polar bears in the melting snow waters of high summer in the far north.

Georgia liked to make honey syrup from the berries as they ripened. She made a blackberry syrup, raspberry, blueberry, mulberry and rye berry. Each one had a distinctive flavor and a color that was either natural to the berry or boiled in a colored honey blend to brighten them up. Tom smelled each syrup as it mixed, and measured and tested each flavor with nose and tongue and fingertip, looking for the combination that lifted the spirits and let them fly away out into the cool wet air, where smoke from wood fireplaces hung and ruffled in the cool breeze as the sun went down. The fireplace smell was ashes and fruit, and Georgia and Tom’s three big labs liked to lay there, slightly damp but warm throughout, to let the heat seep into their ribs when the nights were long. Georgia gave birth one time, then two, and Tom hung fishing nets along the fence on the deck where they sat while Georgia recovered. Georgia began to identify each of her two births from one another by markings, by sound, by temperament. She did this surreptitiously, quietly, on little padded cotton feet that did not track much into the house. Eventually, she considered naming the children, but by then they were up and ready to name themselves.

Woman with a wandering eye


There in the firelight sits a man, a dog, a chunk of meat and a knife. On the wall is a florid oil painting of a peacock walking across a garden, while a pale lady in a silk gown with a dangerously low bodice, wearing piles of yellow curls, sits on an ornate bench, holding her pekingese in her lap.

The man is drinking something: ale, if he’s been working with his men out on the moors; red wine, if he has guests of the more refined variety. But no, he’s got a chunk of meat and a knife. Let’s give him some crusted bread and devonshire cheese while we are at it. His complexion just got a bit higher, and one notices that the pale lady in the portrait appears to be looking at something over a low hedge: the gardener, is it? He’s a fine rustic lad, with a simple name, like Thomas or young Will. She’s looking at him over the hedge, while the pekingese is staring off the canvas at the meat lit up by the firelight.

The man and his ancestors have been in this home with its drafts, its wet stone walls, its brocades and warming pans, for over 400 years. This man, like others of his line, craved travel in his youth. He was the first of his people to travel across the ocean to the wild open west, the muddy roads, the rutted wagon trails. He was the first to break a palomino on the open range, the first to trade in furs and leathers and strange stories sent back across the wide seas. His letters to his father, who was staying in Constantinople with his second wife, were full of lies, and had more of truth hidden in them than he wanted his father to know. His mother, she of the pale hair and the lusting eye, was gone by then. She’d died of a fever one year when the garden was neglected, and the fruit trees had a late cold snap in May. The gardener was found leaning against a wall, dead of a bee sting, according to the parish doctor.

The man’s name is William, after all the Williams in their long line, and his eyes are not a pale hesitant blue like his mother, or a distracted grey, like his father. His eyes are green, the green of seas with warm currents, the green of coastal treasures, the green his descendants would see in the land beneath them 400 years later as they flew over New Zealand, or Brazil, or the western coast of Canada. Green turns to blue and then wanders out into the ocean, where sailors have travelled months at a time to reach the islands of tropical dreaming. The man’s name is William, he of a long line of Williams from chilly lands who have travelled the world in their younger days for hundreds of years. They have travelled to green islands and warm countries: palm trees, coconuts, lava flows, rice fields, machetes, oxen. All things foreign in a world spinning and gradually growing smaller, slower and coming to a resting place.

The pale woman’s descendants travel the world now on thin, light titanium bikes, wearing clothes that wick away moisture, and meals in tubes. They, too, love ale, all her green-eyed daughters, grand-daughters and great great grand-daughters, their friends and lovers. All of them love adventure, and slobbery dogs and frisbees, and all of them love the feeling of otherness that carries them in their strong female bodies through places where the fair-skinned woman with yellow curls and her pekingese were never able to go. And all of the woman’s sons and grand sons and great grand sons keep going back to their place by the fire, century after century, to their ancestral hall, and wait for the women to come home.

Gramma and Grampa retire


Gramma’s rocking chair was a Sears and Roebuck, not old enough or nice enough to be a proper antique. She got it when grampa retired, telling him “That’s it, old man, if you’re retired, then I am too.” That was in 1992. She wasn’t even 65 yet, but she had no intention of increasing her workload by the number of hours he would now be home getting under foot.

They sat there in their living room for a year, gramma in her rocking chair, grampa in his sectional recliner, staring out at their big screen TV, daring each other to say one wrong thing.

After a year of going out to Burger King for a breakfast biscuit and then making himself a ham sandwich with chips for lunch every day, grampa decided he might learn to cook. He set the TV in the kitchen to the food network and started in with salads and omelettes and fish papillote.

Gramma bought a computer and started playing the stock market. Then they thought they’d mess around in real estate, and then they got richer than rich. They got richer than any of their kids, any of their neighbors, any of their fishing buddies. Money sweetened gramma’s temperament considerably, and made grampa better looking. They both lost weight, and when they died last year in a boating accident in Hawaii, they were looking great. Absolutely fantastic.


Insomnia Island


Then it was August and I was tired. It was the heat, or it was the ghosts. I sleep with the ghosts. This is a kind of insomnia. What is it about ghosts that threaten the sleep? I think I know the answer – they live in no time, measure no intervals, and live in a continual present. — postcard from home

Martha was insomniac and did her best thinking while neither asleep nor awake. She said sometimes to Maria that it would have been better if she’d invited lepers into the house, more socially acceptable.

“I brought a leper into my house,” she said to Maria one morning, after she’d been not sleeping for a week or more and the ghosts had been having an especially exuberant period. Her skin was bright white, and her eyes shining – she was in one of the interludes of calm brilliance that prolonged sleeping or not with ghosts seems to bring on.

“Belladonna makes the eyes bright, doesn’t it?” said Maria, looking at Martha and wondering again how to make her sleep.

“Belladonna means beautiful lady – does that make the eyes bright?” Martha said in response, and she smiled again with that sharp, shattered look, and the two of them decided silently, together, to go somewhere else, to leave the ghosts behind for a week or two, or until Martha slept an entire night through. They packed their gear and their soft camping clothes and they went to her happy island, where ghosts may not enter, and there they stayed for almost one month.

Now it is September, and I’ve been sleeping for one week. There are no ghosts, there are no mosquitos, there are no questions in my sleeping mind. Sometimes I see shadows in the corner, but when I turn and look, these are usually animals, the ordinary, evasive animals of island life. A gecko, a gull, a small mammal with little feet like hands that looks at me curiously and leaves if I stare too long. Maria has brought me pineapple and mango and fish, and we’ve cooked and slept and dreamed, and there are no ghosts, no lepers, no forbidden spirits to enter our resting place on this bright white beach. This morning I walked into the shallow blue water farther and farther away from the shore, and I could see every shell, every bit of sand, and my ankles are warm in the water. I turned around and looked behind me, and there she is, waiting for me like I’m a sailor coming home from the sea. — postcard from Insomnia Island

At the end of the month, they went back home. Martha got brave, taking a few risks every day, reading and talking and watching whatever she wanted, and the ghosts did not come back, and the lepers stayed away from the door, and the sun when it shone through the bedroom window found them both sleeping, each with one leg hanging out of the sheets in the cool early morning air.

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May 2009
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