Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pulp . . .

She had seen her pass by every morning for a year now. And the yellow dress wasn’t new, but the day was. She put the coffee cup down on the sill just as the machinists whistled at the girl - they whistled, in vain, in a replay, as though they had forgotten the girl ignored them the previous day, their hope was eternal, for a smile, a wink, perhaps something in her hips would say “yes.” Estelle wished for some acknowledgement too, as though the girl’s change in manner might be just the thing to jolt the world to it’s senses. She lit another cigarette and caught sight of herself in the mirror, she knew it was there, the long cut on her cheek bone, but she wanted to forget. There were people in the hallway, they stopped briefly at her door, she drew smoke deep into her lungs and let it out when the voices disappeared down the stairs. Had they noticed something about the door? Could they tell what had happened?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wolfy & The Goats

Dear people of San Jose, Wolfy is expanding her empire . . . 
check it out

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Long Distance

married on the ides of march, and a few days later, we were saying good-bye at the airport . . . i cried so hard in the ladies' room that it made people uncomfortable. i remember talking to you on the phone that night, the bleating of tree frogs coming through the lines, punctuating your words, the dog sat on the bed and looked out the window, he was waiting for you to come home for dinner - but it took 9 months and a hurricane for us to have dinner together again . . .

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Green Apartment - Part Three

"I move in tonight Estelle." Muriel closed the drawer of the big filing cabinet that blocked the window next to her desk, she wanted to rearrange things, but she had lived with it for so long now, it hardly mattered.
"Oh marvelous - I knew it would be just right."
"You didn't mention the snake . . . "
"Snake?"
"Yes, Iris, the Green Parrot Snake."
"I didn't know he had a snake, but then again, I only went there once. He made a pass at me and I left rather quickly. Did he make a pass at you?"
"If Latin classification of flora is a the new love sonnet form, then maybe he did and I completely missed it. Or maybe Iris the snake was just too much of a distraction."
"Well, you can handle feeding the snake, can't you? What's it eat?"
"Estelle, most people who keep snakes keep them in glass acquariums - you know with some sand, maybe a rock to curl up on, don't they?"
"I suppose so . . ."
"Well, Iris, lives at liberty, in the plants. I don't have to feed her or clean her cage. All I have to do is check the sheets each night before going to sleep, because apparently she likes to curl up under the covers like a cat."
"Oh!" Estelle's voice carried out the door into the Circulation Department and over the front desk out into the great hall that used to contain the card catalogs, but those were replaced years ago by a bank of computers which were currently being replaced by sofas, because nobody needed those big terminals to find the books anymore, the library was on everyone's cell phones. A little girl leaning on her mother as they read a book together heard Estelle, and put her finger to her lips, "shhhhhhhhhhhh," and her mother turned the page. "What do you do if Iris is in there? Under the sheets?"
"Get a hotel room, I guess."

******

The airplane painted to resemble a red and green Macaw flew into the setting sun as Fattoria sipped his gin and tonic in first class, it was 6:01, and Muriel was negotiating the series of locks on the ochre door for the first time. She had one large suitcase, faux Burberry, bought on the street some years ago right before she spent that year in London. The zipper no longer worked properly, but it hardly mattered, as it would not be going overseas again.
The door finally gave in to her pleas and swung open. Muriel pushed the suitcase with her foot into the oppressively hot apartment. "Hi Iris, I'm home." Muriel took off her coat, and her sweater, and as she was already beginning to sweat, she took off her shoes and her knee socks too. She went to the kitchen and before she got to the refridgerator, a note from Fattoria stopped her - neatly written on a yellow legal pad, it leaned on an empty gin bottle in the middle of the kitchen table.

My Dear Muriel,
Welcome home. I'm somewhere over the southern Atlantic right now, the seat belt indicator has gone dark, and undoubtedly I'm content, being on my third or fourth gin and T. and imagining you inhabiting my little jungle away from the jungle. Iris promised me she'd be on her Best Behavior.


The electric bill is payed for the next six months, you have no worries there. Remember if there is a power outage to reboot the little laptop in the bedroom, it controls everything, the water, the lights, and the thermostat. The password is Plumbago.

Good Luck,
Louis


Muriel sat in the chair for a moment and said Plubago outloud and several times, "Plumbago, Plumbago, Plumbago . . . " and then she remembered she once had a distant uncle, of which she had many because her mother had married so many times, who was name Louis, and her mother told her he suffered from Lumbago. She thought it sounded like a dance, to do the Lumbago in a red cafe in Buenos Aires with a man she'd never met before would be quite exciting. But maybe Dr. Fattoria would be dancing the Lumbago upon his arrival on the banks of the Amazon, and this would charm his guide, the one with the bone through his nose, the one with the name spelled only with consonants, the one who would be eaten by a school of piranha, sometime into the expedition, only two days before Fattoria would find the orchid he was looking for, and he would name it for his guide, who's bones now lay on the bottom of the big river.
Muriel felt she had the whole night ahead of her. Fattoria left a bottle of wine and fettucine for her. He had also left fresh cream, eggs, and butter and his favorite Italian cookbook opened to Alfredo sauce for her, "You must cook Muriel, the plants like us to be fat and happy." And Muriel wasn't sure of the meaning of that, but she decided to indulge herself on this first night in the Terrarium as she planned to call it from now on, "Estelle, I'm going to live in the Terrarium."
Muriel carefully whisked the cream and the eggs together over the low flame and now she was down to nothing but her t-shirt and silky under drawers, because cooking in the tropical heat of the apartment wearing a wool skirt was unbearable. She found nutmeg in the cabinet and carefully grated it over her Alfredo sauce. This was not in the recipe, but she liked nutmeg with cream and eggs, so this would make the plants happy wouldn't it? If she was happy the plants would follow. She tossed the fettucine and sauce in a big green bowl, added parmesan and pepper and decided to eat in the living room with the plants. "Hello everyone," Muriel lowered herself into the big leather chair and crossed her legs. The leather was cool against her bare legs and she began to eat and sip her wine in a rhythm she thought was somewhat plant like. "How do plants like to eat?" she wondered, "Slowly I suppose, very slowly. Snakes eat like plants don't they Iris? Where are you Iris? You're not in my bed are you?"

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Father's Lens . . .

and what was i through my father's lens?



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

valentine

beet juice on the cutting board
and rain on the roof . . .

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Unlikely Bookkeeper

when i was small, i spent hours avoiding math in school -- it wasn't difficult in elementary school; my town ran an experiment to see if we could teach ourselves the finer points of math and from fourth grade until sixth, all that was required of me was to complete a series of math worksheets. i was given an period of time to work on them each week and if i had any questions, i could ask my teacher, but i was given the luxury of doing the worksheets as My Own Pace and without any supervision whatsoever. By the time i reached sixth grade i had completed all of thirty worksheets out of the one hundred that were required - so you see, there was a Goal in mind, but we were only gently pushed toward that goal. My sixth grade teacher was panicked by my lack of motivation, he was my first male teacher, with a tendency toward abusive language -- he was dark haired, lithe, and had a mustache - he was an unfunny Groucho Marx. He decided the only way i would complete my math journey to one hundred was to keep me in for recess for the entire year. And he moved my desk next to his desk, while all the other students' desks were arranged in pods of four, i was a pod of one, next to Morrison's desk, his eye ever on me. There would be no daydreaming of ponies or musings of stories, there would only be math. There had been frequent beatings for me on the playground in fifth grade - i was forever being punched, kicked, thrown about - i fought back late in the spring of fifth grade and punched my assailant, a boy who was abused quite a bit himself, right in the nose i landed and he fell back into the swings and blood spurted brightly from his nostrils and for a moment i thought i had killed him, but i had only broken his nose -- the boy killed himself in a game of Russian Roulette when we were 17 and all i could think of was the day i broke his nose. i cried when the decree on No Recess came, but at the same time, my prison would be my protection too. And Morrison sat there with me, every damn day, saying almost nothing, eating his egg salad sandwich, and sipping coffee -- i don't think any teacher would do such a thing today. i progressed from elementary to Jr. high school with no hiccup, my one hundred worksheets of math were completed and the town of Westport declared the experiment a failure the following year and commanded it's teachers to Teach math once again.

i was haunted by math from then on - i struggled through Junior High School Algebra and Chemistry 101 in the eleventh grade practically brought me to suicide. And all that time i dreamed of being a Marine Biologist, because of Jacques Cousteau on the television and a book i received one Christmas on the subject of Whales, but the counselor told me my Test Results showed i had no aptitude for science . . . apparently science was math and math was science, so i was to seek out something more to my temperament, and English was that thing and so that is the arrow i was tethered to, the sea would have to go on without me.

But i was always fascinated with Mrs. Floria - who is Mrs. Floria? She was the Bookkeeper in Trudy Gary's Country Mouse - the children's clothiers my grandmother worked as a saleslady in for some twenty five years, down there on Main Street in Westport. Mrs. Floria was quite elegant, she smoked, and wore bifocals attached to an ornate chain that draped over her tailored shirts - sometimes she wore Lilly Pulitzer skirts and her hair was perfectly coiffed. She worked upstairs over the showroom of the store, and she had a little sliding glass window that she could open to let out the smoke and call out questions to the salesladies. There was a spiral staircase that led to her quarters, her garret, where she counted the money and she humored little me with my ideas that we should install a pneumatic tube system for messages - i wanted to send up little sheets of paper to her and she in turn could send little notes down the curves of the spiral staircase to me, which i would deliver to the ladies on the sales floor. Sometimes i would wander up there and watch her write neatly and perfectly in her green ledger.

Years later i would graduate from college with nothing but an English degree and a part-time job at the library which led me strangely to understand databases -- books on shelves in a library are nothing but the grandest of databases, did you know that? i learned how to manage a database by shelving books - math is nothing but orderliness, that is all it is. But it took me pushing books on carts and placing them on shelves and the Library of Congress system to teach me that . . . it's not esoteric at all, it's about doing things in a certain manner, it's about your ABC's and 123s.

And so the library launched me into working as a database manager for the environment and next thing you know i taught myself how to make maps by digitizing points in space on a tablet . . . which was nothing more than knitting really. This wasn't math it was meditation.

And when i burned out on all that, i took a job that was a bit easier than anything i had ever done, Bookkeeping and i find myself going into my little garret once or twice a week, always dressed as well as Mrs. Floria, but without the cigarette, and i neatly record the numbers in the green ledger and Morrison is in the back of my mind, shaking his head and finishing off his egg salad sandwich . . . he say, "Wolfy, life is short, don't sleep through it."

How Was Your Day?

so there i am, standing on line in the WSM with a bottle of wine, a bag of peas, some severely fresh fettucine, and alfredo sauce from the deli, and the girl at the register asks the young man buying the big can of Foster's in front of me, "How was your day?" and he says "Well, someone called me a Pharisee at work today" and she says, "WAT?" and i lean in and echo her "WAT?" and the young man repeats, "Pharisee, he called me a Pharisee" and so i repeat, "WAT? He called you a fairy? No way!" and the girl echoes me, "He called you a fairy?" and he says "No no no, he called me a Pharisee, it's biblical" and i say, "Biblical is right!" and the young man explains, "Apparently i was being too much to the letter of the law on this real estate deal - the Pharicees were intensely self-righteous and persnickety about the Law." i unload my groceries on the belt and look at the girl as she rings up the Foster's, "I thought he said Fairy" and she says "so did i," and then i looked at the young man and said, "that has got to be the most obscure insult ever" and the girl said, "i would have said thank you, i would have thought it was a compliment." As the young man walked away, he said, "Well, I'm off to read my Tora."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Green Apartment - Part Two

A series of locks had to be navigated before Fattoria opened the ochre steel door and motioned Muriel to precede him into the apartment. At once she felt warm, her skin perspired, her clothes felt heavy with mist, and she had to close her eyes and open them again slowly, because this was a quality of light she had not seen before, it vibrated like a memory, like a thought passing from the plants to her. Fattoria took her coat and her purse and layed them on the one chair, a captain's chair, at the kitchen table. The kitchen was a the only room devoid of plants, despite the fact there was a window, but this window was made of stained glass, a depiction of Saint Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland into an angry sea. Muriel gazed at the stained glass, "It was here when I moved in, the window - this place used to belong to a very superstitious old Irish woman. I found whiskey bottles in every closet on the first day, some empty, some not. Cheap whiskey too."
"They say there never were snakes in Ireland . . . " Muriel couldn't believe how hot it was in the apartment, she wondered why it was so hot.
"They, my dear Muriel, are correct, no self-respecting snake ever swam to Ireland or away from Ireland. St. Patrick was no Moses. Would you care for a drink? It's cocktail hour, perhaps a glass of wine? Or join me in a gin and tonic? I leave for Rio in the morning and quinine is running in my blood. I quit taking malaria pills years ago. They render me helpless - nightmares, night sweats, and doubling me over with pain. The British knew what they were doing when they drank all those gin and tonics in tropical colonies, the quinine keeps the malaria at bay."
"Water for me thank you, I suddenly feel a bit warm." Muriel wanted to admit to feeling dizzy too, and there was now a slight ringing in her left ear.
"It's the plants, you'll have to live with it I'm afraid. I keep the temperature at a constant 82 degrees, they thrive that way, any cooler and they begin to weaken. Why don't you have a seat in the living room and I'll bring you some water straight away."
Muriel blinked and walked into the living room, although, it was nothing but an overstuffed leather chair with a small bookshelf and a lamp at it's side. The bookshelf was neatly arranged with nothing but botanical volumes, specifically dealing in tropicals. Fattoria was whistling in the kitchen, "Puccini?" Muriel thought, "Yes, Madame Butterfly . . . I am the happiest girl in Japan."  Muriel heard ice cubes tinkling in a glass and this made her feel immediately cooler. She blinked again and began to feel overwhelmed by the plants that crowded the room. Great numbers of them, and they seemed to grow from the walls and the floors, if there were any pots, any soil, they weren't apparent. There were bromiliads, ferns, Elephant Ears as large as the windows, philodendrons, Bird of Paradise, Jade, and Canna Lillies. There were trees that reached to the ceiling and made a canopy so fine Muriel expected to see the night sky, the stars, the moon revealed through the leaves - Rubber Trees, Magnolia, Mahogany, banana, and olive. There was an orange tree heavy with fruit, and a fig tree and palms and a small stand of bamboo. Purple orchids reached toward her in the chair as if to say, "and who are you?"
Lights flickered. She heard water running and then stopping and then running again, soft rain, then the trickling of a nearby tiny waterfall. A series of clicks and then more lights came on and some went off. The room was very alive with plants and now she could see, alive with small hoses and wires and tiny grow lights, some only pinsized beams of light directed at one orchid.
"Do you know plants Muriel?" Fattoria swept into the room and handed her a large frosty glass of water.
"No, not really . . . I know what a Christmas Cactus is. I had one once. And there are so many ficus trees in the library, one really has to know what they are. Everything else is either grass or weeds or trees to me. One plant frankly is indistinguishable from another. Is that alright? I mean, will the plants need me to know them if I live here?"
"This is a Traveler's Tree. This is jasmine simplici folium, or just jasmine. Blue Plumbago, plumbago auriculata. This? This is Queen of the Night, selenicereus grandiflora." Fattoria lingered with the Queen of the Night and took a sip of his gin and tonic, then he jiggled the glass for some sort of icy punctuation and crossed the room, "Mother-in-Law's Tongue, sansevieria trifasciata, and here is the sublime Rice Paper Plant." Muriel listened as Fattoria waltzed around the room introducing the plants, as though they were debutantes at the ball. Each time he touched a plant and named it, the leaves seemed to swoon, to curtsy, to take a bow at their acknowledgement. Muriel could see Fattoria was deeply in love with his plants and the plants obviously returned this affection. Eventually Fattoria came to sit on a small jeweled Persian rug beneath the hibiscus tree and quietly finished his gin.
Muriel noticed something move among the passion flowers. She watched, the flowers went still again. And then the thing moved again, this time making a long sweep through the orchids and coming to a rest, curled neatly around a bamboo tree. It was as though a vine had taken leave of it's senses and decided to move house. "Mr. Fattoria?
"Yes, Muriel"
"Is that a snake?"
"Yes, Muriel, that's Iris."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Spaulding Gray Says . . .

The odd thing about death is . . . everybody knows they're going to die, but nobody actually believes it . . .

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Temple

the hare krishnas keep a greenhouse near the road
it glows like a florescent lozenge at night
a spaceship filled with seedlings for the immense garden
that stretches it’s way to the temple
whose yellow paint is peeling away from the geodesic shrine
i don’t know why they worship in there anymore
when it’s perfectly obvious where the deity really is
he moved out there as soon as they turned on the grow lights
and he sits throughout the night meditating and levitating
smiling his beatific smile at the cars that roll by
he watches his followers file to the temple before sun up
and while they light the incense and lay their silken handbags down
the deity tastes green shoots and listens to the automatic waterer
he waits patiently for them to discover he’s no longer where they think he is
under that musty crumbling dome
the late afternoon sun sinks with the arrival of a pale girl
swathed in heavy saris damp with winter rain
she brushes past the deity and checks the progress of young radishes
the rain begins to fall heavier on the little glass ship in the garden
and the girl is overwhelmed with happiness

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Gate

and what of the angry dark eyed boy
who whistles Suicide Is Painless?
loudly
and broken
but not so
it's unintelligible
no, it's a hard emphasis
mad breathy improv
as he goes through
the automatic doors into the market
and earlier it was the black iron work
in a gate that lead to a garden
a blacksmith's delicate parenthesis
against too many layers of white paint
that asked me to linger on the street
but the dog had other ideas
the smell of grass
cut in February
under bare beech trees
the green clippings drift into our path
and they seem as odd
as the boy's tune
and later we wind home
a black cat stretches fast
across the road in front of us
the dog wants me to let him go
but instead i spit for luck
and squint at the cold western sun

My Mother Jumping

here she is around 1960
aboard Eleo Sears'
famous hunter Pikes Peak

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Up On The Roof

The Mexicans are whistling
and stretching strings
to make straight lines
and squinting in winter light
their voices rise
over the nail guns
and the whir of skill saws
and layer by layer
they are laying the new roof
and i'm down here
with a fever
with dogs
who think the end is near
because there are footfalls
above us
lunch hour comes with bright sun
i let the dogs out to roam
they're offended by the asphalt dust
that has rained down in their yard
The Mexicans play football
in the driveway
and eat their sandwiches
before heading back up the ladders
where they'll stay til dark