Posts Tagged 'writing group'

Considerations of a burgeoning trinity

The hermit in the cave has a funny bone. It is located somewhere between her elbow and her thigh. The funny bone connects the body, mind, and spirit of the hermit at unexpected moments. Some days, it occurs to Hermit that soup is like mind, all salt and broth and herbs swimming together, and she laughs until she is so thirsty she drinks it all down. Some days it occurs to her that sex is like spirit, transcendent and earthy, and she laughs til her thighs ache with wanting. Some days it seem to her that mind is like criticism, architecture and chemistry, sewn together in a complex and terrible quilt, and she laughs until her eyes shoot sparks into the dry forest, where she learns about the danger of mind.

The dangers of mind, body, and spirit coexist in the person of Hermit, who lives in a cave that is always 72 degrees. The cave of Hermit is full of shadows and hieroglyphs, old stories and maps to somewhere else. In one corner, someone has written cogito ergo sum. It is not known who wrote those words; they have been there since before meaning was a consideration. Hermit calls the writer “Anonymous”. Anonymous Bosch is the pseudonym adopted by Hermit when she puts on her widow’s weeds and wanders out of the cave into the blinding sun. There is ambivalence in leaving the cave for Hermit, who believes in cloister but also in compassion, which cannot be practiced alone. And so she prays, alone, and sings, in company, and serves the beans and rice that feed the brains that think the thoughts that write the words that live in the cave that thought built.

In the cave that thought built there are three Hermits who live in a single body. The body of Hermit is strong and brown, the mind of Hermit is calm and wild; the spirit of Hermit is sky, water, fire and air. Hermit thinks herself alone, feels herself in her body: skin, lungs, bowels, hands, the jittering synapses of sensation. Hermit feels her spirit ecstatic, expansionist, empire building across skies and centuries, knocking down the walls of time and reason. Hermit leaves the cave, Hermit goes back home, over and over and over again.

She rose up

All night long, the outside world bellowed. Bellowed, honked, shrieked, krilled, ululated and yowled. She tossed restlessly, nearly sleeping but disturbed by the concatenation of sounds rising in hysterical crescendo and then falling into brief staccato silences. She woke, and slept, and woke, and slept, until 3 a.m., when the full moon was hot and the orchestra was tuning up for another movement.

“I am afraid I never will do that,” she told herself as she considered sleeping in the basement, with the spiders and the goblins still hiding in the shadows of her childhood. She rose up in her blue nightgown and went outside, where she sat on the porch swing. The silver lace vine shone in the moonlight, the honeysuckle twitched as if its dreams were restless.

At 3:20, he went past the house where he used to live. It was now even more worn by time and weather than it had been. He stopped, to see it better, and turned off his car engine. The house seemed smaller, and ghostly in the flat white light of the high summer moon. Sitting on a porch swing sat a girl, swinging gently, in a blue nightgown and bare feet. She was singing a song, a ballad of danger and gypsy love that sounded so familiar he spontaneously got out of the car and walked toward her in the moonlight.

The girl looked up and their eyes met. She stopped swinging. The birds and the beasts in the barnyard started up again and within seconds they were wrapped in cacophonous, ratcheting, chaotic sound. 

 “Good gracious!” she said, getting off the swing and stepping onto the cool grass. She started toward the house, the house with the silent windows, that seemed to him to be empty.

“No!” he said. “Stop!” But she didn’t, she didn’t stop and the house swallowed her up and the sounds were swallowed with her and he stood on the front porch in the moonlight, saying “Mom? Mom?” to the empty rooms and gaping windows and the moon slid behind the clouds in the sudden silence.






Elephant ride

Elephant leans against Andy, warm,
grey as felt and his big heart

Pounding, says leave the gypsies,
the fire rings, the bearded lady

With me, outward bound on this train;
geese fly overhead, say yes yes yes

To the Yukon, where skies are slate
as elephant’s eyes and his big heart

Contracting, pulls blood long distance,
sled dogs times three carrying more than more.

Elephant leans against Susan, rough
hair, wide ears, trunk groping, deaf

To the clattering of train tracks, blind
to the criss-crossing, criss cross criss cross

Contracting miles, Alberta to Atlanta,
Albuquerque to Albany.

Elephant leans against Molly,
nuzzle snuffling, suede coat, bound

For Glory, this train, this train
is bound for glory, this train.

Elephant leans against Susy,
peanuts in deep pockets,

Treats for a searching elephant,
expected, unpredictable;

Pyramids rising out of sand dunes
where subdivisions are platted.


I am standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, waiting to see what this day will bring. The wind is sharp, the trains scream, the trees rattle their heads like women mad with grief. Fortune, in her shift and change of mood, is fickle as wind. It lashes, it pricks, it tricks me into submission and I board that train knowing that it is fortune driving, not me.

“It’s one o’clock, boy, is it not?”

I am leaning against the open car and watching, hand shielding my eyes from the blowing sands. Looking to my left, I see him, the man with the heavy mustaches, the man with the cards and the guns and the reputation. His foes are so enrooted with his enemies, so enrooted that it seems the tumbled ground would open and swallow him directly to hell, where surely he is destined to go.

“Yes. The train leaves in ten minutes,” I say. I don’t look at him. I don’t say anything that might invite him to join me.

He takes out his pouch and rolls a cigarette, making the ironic face that men with heavy mustaches adopt. He offers me one. I turn my shoulder away from him.

I will unfold some causes of your deaths.

Deaths, say my ears, deaths, plural. I feel my breath catch in my throat and I turn toward him, making eye contact and holding it. The train makes a sudden heaving gasp and jolts forward. The wind spins through the open car, the sound of steel and air keens and I am deaf, deaf and lost, on this train to god knows where.

Do not trust this history, reader, or my observation in this matter. This is only the story as I can tell it, truth or fevered imagining, I can’t say. Is it only this morning, only these few hours, since I left the warm body of Annabel, before these winds began?

The Chicharrones Diet

On America’s Got Talent, Brenda Lane presented her spectacular recipes for guaranteed weight loss. The voters hated her and she made it only through the first round. She went instead to the Biggest Loser and made it through rounds two, three, and four, with much hooting and ridicule for her recipes and her habit of wearing spandex too tight. She sweated on her meringues and divinity, she fried her pork rinds in lard and tears, the audience laughed and laughed but kept her in the race until round four, when with a flourish she threw off her towel at weighing in and ran off the set and onto the studio parking lot, where she hailed a cab in the altogether. The cabbie drove to a thrift store and brought her a shift of stretch terry cloth and handing it to her said for crying out loud lady, put something on. She wiped her eyes on the terry and thanked him, and he took her home. At the door, she said wait, just a minute, and came back a moment later with a bag of chicharrones and his cab fare, and thus a great love was born.

A hatred of fat is funny in a country of fat people, but less funny in a country of people who worship thinness for its own sake. Brenda and Guy went through every recipe of Brenda’s together and watched the weight come off.

“It’s a good joke, don’t you think,” said Guy, licking country gravy off of his bowl with a chunk of fried turkey. He handed Brenda a whole dill pickle to dunk in the batter.

“Sure do, honey,” said Brenda. “You want to hear another one?”

“Shoot, cupcake,” said Guy.

“How many fatties does it take to change a light bulb?”

“I don’t know, how many?”

“Only one, but it has to want to change.”

They laughed and went out for donuts, a couple of people who were just fat enough on love and chicharrones.

Improvisation – A minor

Little Lyre was my first baby. She was selfish, envious and too tightly tuned. This may have been my lack of experience, but I think Lyre was just born that way. Each baby is born the way they are, and nurture might enhance or temper that little creature, but it is itself, separate from mom, be it human or otherwise.  Little Lyre had a thin and demanding voice, eventually mellowing into a sliding, wheedling light and bluesy sound – she did well on the jazz circuit and you may know her by a different name.

What you learn about babies and music is that each time is different, each time is a surprise. Each time is temporary. Babies and music are ephemeral – put your hand on this instrument, this child, and by the time you’ve taken two breaths – they are gone.

My second baby, Major Seventh, was challenging also. He had militaristic tendencies and it was only with difficulty that I convinced him to switch from the drums to the violin, which is precise and rule-bound in a way that I thought would help him control his aggression. And it did. He’s a nice man, formal and complete, and he rarely gives in to the pounding rages that characterized his relationship with the drum. With the violin, he learned to listen, and to finesse.

Baby Shakade was an international child – a singer, a shaker, a mover – and changed religions so fast that I never knew exactly who I was talking to. I say that, but with Shakade, listening took up far more of the conversation than talking. She is still singing, on the road. She is a smiler, young Shakade.

Zither Cheerios was my transitional child. What was I doing with my life? More music, more babies, more education, more traveling? I just couldn’t decide. Zither stuck with me through rich times and poor and the sound Zither makes, in her sleep, is even now the dearest music I’ve ever heard.

 My next child was named Viola Bassoon and her sister, Fecund Felicity, was a happy but unexpected twin. These two have opened a school together, and they teach music, both traditional and experimental, to children and adults in an open field in a farm somewhere other than here.

Eventually I had an entire orchestra of children and they were loud and tragic and funny and rude. They were expensive and soft and red-headed and bald. They were boys and girls and then men and women. They were talented and lazy and resentful and joyous. They were all the things an orchestra tends to be. They made harmonious and dissonant sounds, they played together and solo. They had scandals and tragedies. They had opportunities and disappointments. They had sheet music and improvisations. They had epiphanies and crescendos. They had codas, repeat and fade. My only regret is that I never got around to having Kazoo and Tambourine, a funny and affectionate duo that I thought would like to travel with me in a pop-up van when I am old and ready to travel around the country, singing and writing and making music to go with the western skies, the great gulf coast, and the northern stars. But who knows, they may still be on their way.

3x story


Brenda meets Yosef.

Hallo, Yosef, Brenda says.

Que? Says Josef back to Brenda.

’Kay, says Brenda and takes Yosef’s hand.

The streets are long and poorly lit. Brenda and Yosef fall into each others arms after an evening of Patron followed by a morning of Aquavit, lime and blow. Then they are married, they think, and the sun, the moon and the stars are all as lit as Brenda and Yosef.

The sun rises on their alliance one week later and it’s as if a dozen years have passed. The halls are filled with children who are dirty and thieving, and men who will sell themselves for a shrimp cocktail or una mas cerveza with tomato and lime. Yosef is ragged and rolled, Brenda is stashing her change in a bag in the small back yard and hoping no one will find it.

After one week of each other’s company without baths, money or shoes, Brenda and Yosef are strangers. They sit one last day in the courtyard, Brenda sucking a lime and chewing the tequila off of her hand, Yosef corresponding with a series of aging tias and primas who might be good for a peseta or two, or more to get him out of here and away from the gorgon he’d created after one week of love.

That afternoon, Yosef got a letter in a thin envelope, and in the envelope was a thin piece of paper, and the thin piece of paper was recognized by the unstable bank in the local currency, and was enough to get Yosef away from this tropical paradise hell. He left that same day, without word one to his mama, his abuela, his novia, his jefe – no one.


Bye-bye, Brenda, bye-bye, said Yosef to the disappearing Brenda as he set off across unspecified waters toward the land of the lights, big cities, big money, big dreams.

Brenda woke up later that night grinding her teeth. Yosef took everything, every promise, every picture, every envy and made it bigger, more glorious and more sustaining than dreams in this neighborhood had been for years. He also took every penny, every peseta, every sous, and Brenda was more broke than she’d ever been in her life.

In her new paradise, Brenda slept without guns or shovels under her bed. The baseball bat she kept nearby was in case of a game, she said. The neighborhood liked her dark eyes, and the smell of warm caramel that followed her everywhere. For awhile, there was peace.


Many events occurred, some travels, some travails. Eventually Brenda and Yosef were re-united and there was a dance, a feast, and a story on NPR.

The end.

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