Entradas con "Translation" disponen de versión castellana.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Similar

Waking up as a widow is similar to waking up married, except when you stretch your foot over onto his side of the bed, you meet no resistance. It is completely dissimilar to waking up divorced or single, where all sides are your side of the bed.

Bereavement is similar to the frustration of having misplaced an out-of-print novel you left off at page 264, especially in the way you keep expecting him to turn up again.

The grieving process is similar to the alcoholic’s twelve-step program, except that there is no wagon for you to fall off of, or to jump onto for that matter. And, as any drunk will attest, even when you’ve stopped drinking, you’re never not an alcoholic.



Despertarse siendo viuda es similar a despertarse siendo casada, excepto cuando estiras el pie hacia su lado de la cama no encuentras resistencia. No es nada similar a despertarse siendo divorciada o soltera, cuando todos los lados son tu lado de la cama.

El desamparo es similar a la frustración de haber extraviado una novela fuera de catálogo que has dejado en la página 264, sobre todo en la manera en que esperas que aparezca en cualquier momento.

El proceso del duelo es similar al programa de 12 pasos de los alcohólicos anónimos, aunque no hay andadas por donde volver ni, si es por eso, camino que hacer. Y, como confirmará cualquier borracho, aunque hayas dejado de beber, jamás dejas de ser alcohólico.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Balloon / El globo

Grammy was the exotic one, the first generation American, the one with the secretive past. She taught us how to swear in Italian without telling us what it meant, thereby outwitting the Catholic guilt she had renounced in favor of her upstanding Protestant home. She told us she used to sing all the popular Italian songs –we begged her to sing O Sole Mio- but that Mom the kid would roll her eyes so she stopped. She told us that she and her sisters spoke in English so that their mother would not understand that they were talking about lipstick and boys, and she said they did not understand their stepfather, who spoke a different dialect. None of those people were real to us, even though somewhere there might be children our age that we could play with, we who had no cousins.
I asked her once where she was from, where her family was from in Italy. We were at the Thanksgiving table, where everyone expected her to repeat what she had been saying forever –who can remember, someplace you never heard about, it wasn’t Naples, thank heavens-. Instead she pronounced the long Italian name that began with an “S”, which I repeated back to her, nodding my head in true collegiate style, but I didn’t write it down, I didn’t look it up, and now it is gone.
I remember sitting on her dark blue couch under the bay window that looked onto the driveway, where we would have cocktails and dip. I would always lift the porcelain top of the cigarette case to make sure there were still Benson & Hedges inside it, although everyone had quit smoking long ago, then I would say to Grammy: “Tell me the story of your life.” She would laugh and pat my hand. “When you were just a little girl,” she would say, “you came to visit, and I hadn’t seen you in so long I said: “so, tell me the story of your life!” And you said: ‘Once upon a time, I was riding with Mommy and Daddy in a balloon and it was red and we flew up over your house. We looked down and saw you. I waved to you and you waved back, and that is the story of my life.’”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLiwQRAewNU
(To hear Pavarotti sing O Sole Mio)

Abuelita era la exótica, la Americana de primera generación, la que tenía un pasado secreto. Nos enseñó a decir palabrotas en italiano sin contarnos su significado, y así evitaba la culpa católica a la que había renunciado en favor a la integridad de su hogar protestante. Nos contó que solía cantar todas las canciones populares italianas –le suplicábamos que cantara O Sole Mio- pero que Mamá la niña se oponía tanto que lo dejó de hacer. Nos contó que ella y sus hermanas hablaban en inglés entre sí para que su madre no se diera cuenta de que hablaban de lápices de labios y de chicos, y dijo que ellas no entendían a su padrastro que hablaba un dialecto distinto. Estas personas no nos parecían reales, aunque en algún lugar quizás hubiera niños de nuestra edad con quien jugar nosotros tres, que no teníamos primos.
Una vez le pregunté de dónde venía, de dónde en Italia era su familia. Estábamos alrededor de la mesa en el Día de Acción de Gracias, cuando todo el mundo esperaba que contestara lo de siempre -¿Quién se acuerda? Algún lugar que no conoces. De Nápoles no, gracias a Dios-. Sin embargo pronunció el largo nombre italiano que comenzaba con una ese, que repetí, asintiendo con mi cabeza de entendida universitaria, pero no lo anoté, no lo busqué en el atlas y ahora ha desaparecido.
Recuerdo estar sentada en su sofá azul oscuro, bajo el ventanal que daba al camino lateral, donde tomábamos el aperitivo. Yo solía levantar la tapa de la pitillera de porcelana para comprobar que seguía guardando los Benson & Hedges, aunque todos habían dejado de fumar hacía mucho tiempo, entonces le decía a mi abuelita, -Cuéntame la historia de tu vida-. Ella siempre se reía y me acariciaba la mano. –Cuando no eras más que una niña pequeña,- contaba –viniste de visita, y hacía tanto tiempo que no te había visto que te dije “pues, bien, cuéntame la historia de tu vida”. Y tú me dijiste: “Érase una vez que yo viajaba con Mamá y Papá en un globo que era rojo y pasamos por encima de tu casa. Mirábamos por abajo y yo te veía. Te saludaba con la mano y tú me saludabas también, y ahora te he contado la historia de mi vida”-.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLiwQRAewNU
(Para escuchar a Pavarotti cantar O Sole Mio)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Opinión

Hay un hombre, seguro que le has visto, que anda por allí con una camisa naranja algo desataviada. Vive como despeinado, al borde de una apoplejía, tanto que se le ha vuelto verdosa la tez. Lo que no puedes saber es cómo llegó a estar allí parado bajo una nube revuelta, deshilachada, como anudada, que le quita hasta las ideas.
El pobre iba por la calle un buen día, tan tranquilo, sin molestar a nadie, cuando de repente fue alcanzado por un grupo de mujeres, taichiístas luego se dijo que eran, que hablaban todas a la vez, en tono jocoso, pero insistente. Al pasar esa nube de energía universal por su lado, una de ellas se despegó dando grandes saltos y gritando <<¡Un moment! ¡Un moment! ¡Un moment!>> para plantarse delante del hombre que, en aquel preciso instante, daba el aspecto del hombre más normal del mundo mundial.
Con una mano en la cadera y otra apartándose un mechón del pelo, Aida –que así se llamaba esta taichiísta - le preguntó: <<¿Y usted qué opina?>>
Cambiando el peso universal de una pierna a la otra, Aida insistió con sus dos manos: <<¿A ver? Porque tendrá alguna opinión, digo yo, ¿o no? Vamos, diga algo. Porque su opinión es que no tiene opinión, porque si fuera capaz de opinar, ya hubiera opinado, pero veo que no, que no puede ni opinar. Vaya ejemplar que hemos encontrado, chicas. Pero señor, no se enfade, que le queremos. Vámonos, que este hombre no tiene, por no tener, ni opinión, pero lo que digo yo...>>
Y calle abajo se fue el enjambre de taichiístas, siguiendo con su discusión hasta perderse en el bullicio de la concurrida acera y dejando parado bajo su enmarañada nube negra a ese hombre que ves. http://llapis.blogspot.com/2008/11/opinion.html ←Ese de allí.

Ese.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pretend (NaNoWriMo novel excerpt)

Despite stepping optimistically into the shower, Karen was immediately disappointed. She’d been focussed on the decorating aspect of the missing shower curtain, and had entirely forgotten that it also served to keep water inside the shower area and, more importantly, off the bathroom floor. There would be no head-soaking, water-massaging shower such as she had anticipated. Relegated to hostel-style, one-handed bathing while holding the shower head and maneovering it with her other hand, Karen was in the midst of resigning herself into conformity when it occurred to her that the whole thing felt weird. She felt weird, the shower felt weird. The house felt strange, as did the light, the time of day, and even her body seemed just different enough to make it feel as though she may have become someone else. Karen sprayed water on her face and thought about this. What if all that she was doing, all the plans she had made and was continuing to make, the careful selection of house wares and wares for the soul, what if it was all not suitable for her? What if what she was doing was pretending to be someone else, taking someone’s name, hair color, accent, and then filling in the rest with what she thought this other person would want? If she pretended to be someone named, say, Bernadette, how would that be different from what she was trying to do now? Karen turned off the water and energetically shampooed her hair, scrubbing as if she were trying to shake her ideas to the surface.
Wasn’t a person just the way she was and that was it? Maybe what changed was nothing more than her circumstances. A person only seemed to change because of the way she reflected back her new circumstances. Maybe all the changes a person claimed as her own were merely adjustments made to fit those changed circumstances? Joe used to say that people didn’t change, they just became more intently themselves. If that was true, and Karen was trying to be less intently herself and more like someone she didn’t even know yet, wasn’t that just an elegant form of dress-up, a game of let’s pretend, like Hannah had played with her little friends in Karen’s old room, raiding her closet the way Karen and her friends had done with her own mother’s things?
Karen rinsed off the hair that, yes, she had dyed far enough off her natural color as to make her not quite herself. Was that too only another attempt to hide, just another pretence? That couldn’t be! she railed. I am not pretending! She was so incensed she said it out loud, under cover of running water: “I’m not pretending!” That felt good, so she took a breath, ran the water over her face and said it just a little bit louder: “I am not pretending!” And of course that horrid voice that always piped in when she overstepped her childhood boundaries of propriety and good breeding began its litany. ‘methinks the lady doth protest overmuch’ and –in an appalling change in register- ‘she who smelt it dealt it’ –which, since it sounded so completely inappropriate, she covered over with the classic “if the shoe fits, wear it”, only to end up, as she always did, with Joe intoning (although other times it was Joe laughing) “We don’t change. We just become more annoying versions of ourselves”.
Karen turned the water off again to soap up the body that was undeniably still hers, only more so. She chuckled to think that she hardly remembered what she used to look like when she was young and lithe. Good ole Tommy, her high school boyfriend, probably remembered what her breasts used to look like better than she did. Her body and whether or not it lived up to expectations was never a matter for much concern, other than while she was reciting the oh-so-repetitive prayer of adolescence ‘god I hope they grow, god I hope they grow’ and during the stultifying onset of her period. Otherwise, Karen was hard-pressed to understand cosmetic surgery –forget about scalpels- but maybe that just meant she was as normal looking as they come.
Karen ran the water one last time and all thought halted as she concentrated on rinsing her body off without flooding the bathroom in the process. Not by nature a multi-tasker, she leaned more toward the ‘walk first, then chew gum’ school of thought. She marvelled at people like Adele who seemed to effortlessly juggle all the pieces of her life, pulling off each endeavour with flair and no small amount of pleasure. It might be nice to be able to do all that, thought Karen, although it seemed to entail an insurmountably greater amount of energy than she was prepared to exert in order to do so. She much preferred being the appreciative beneficiary of the fruits of Adele’s ineradicable energy.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wise

Wise is choosing to bite your tongue rather than speak your mind
when no one is listening anyway.

Es de sabios elegir morderte la lengua antes que decir lo que piensas
cuando de todas formas nadie te está escuchando.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Vacant

Vacant is the place the tip of my tongue constantly seeks out, the ragged hole that is so much deeper than seems necessary or possible to exist at the end of the row of molars on the right side of my mouth, up near where my tongue scratches when I’m about to get a cold, where it can almost feel sometimes like I’ll gag or puke if I keep at it, but I keep at it.
My wisdom tooth was there. It was the last one to come in, the one I’d waited 40 years for, and when it did come in, it was mortally flawed. There was already a hole I could stick my tongue into, even before it fully broke the surface of the gum back there, the gum that thought it was done making room. Maybe because of its flaw I became thoroughly attached to it, like the runt of the litter that you can’t help loving to death, until you love it to death, poor thing. I would poke at it and poke at it, as if to remind it where it was and sometimes in my absentminded poking I would scratch my tongue, even cut it a bit and think, wow, was that stupid, or what? Then I would find my wounded tongue easing back into that hole in the last, the newest, the most recent tooth of wisdom.
I’d been warned all my life that these wisdom teeth were worthless, traitorous, that I would be much better off without them, yet I withstood. I wanted my wisdom teeth with me. I swore they’d come in straight and good, and they did. Except the last one had a flaw. But it came in straight and good, expecting nothing less than the same attention my tongue had given each of the others, which it received, believe me, it received.
But of course the day came. It came sooner than expected, as those kinds of days always do. It was quick, no time for decision making, no time for last minute changes of heart. Two small shots of novocaine, a bit of chit chat to make the time pass. A click or two of the pliers.
“All you need is a really good grip,” said Dr. Salas as she tilted my head back with one hand and wielded the cold silver pliers with the other. An adjustment or two, a tentative pull and then she wrenched the tooth, which of course began to shatter. Another quick adjustment and she was back gripping that poor flawed broken tooth.
“That’s it, that’s it,” she cooed at the pliers and took a deep breath (I swear I heard the sharp intake of her breath over mine) and pulled like she was pulling the bells of Notre Dame and thwump, out the bloody tooth came.
She shoved in a wad of gauze, reminded me to bite down hard for a good half hour, whisked my bib away, twirled the dentist’s chair out for me to disembark and waved me out the door. Numbly I wandered out into the autumn street, carefully biting down on the gauze that replaced the tooth that was now just a hollow, bloody hole. I thought about that, thought about how my tongue already wanted to wander over to that raw, empty spot which, abandoned by its rightful inhabitant, would now and forevermore remain vacant.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Repair

CHILD REPAIR MANUAL
Female Model, “Classic” make (15-25 yrs.)
Part IV - Inner Mechanisms


Always take care when handling damaged or broken children.
Spare parts are not available and replacement cannot be guaranteed.

Before undertaking any repairs, please check the child to make sure it has proper feed and lube. Give it a thorough cleaning before visual inspection.

WARNING:
AN OVERHEATED CHILD CAN CAUSE SEVERE INJURY.
PROCEED WITH CAUTION WHEN REPAIRS ARE MADE WITHOUT PROPER COOLING.
Carry out complete visual inspection and standard review of moveable parts, checking for external damage. Should any damage be discovered or suspected, refer to corresponding sections in the General Repair Manual.

I - GENERAL MALFUNCTION

This make and model often suffers from sporadic glitches and erratic running, although it rarely seizes up until 18-20 yrs. Apathetic start-ups and sudden shut downs are inherent in this make’s operation. Adjust supply line and shorten operating hours when possible in order to improve outlook and function. Higher-grade feed and a fresh coat of paint are recommended.

RECYCLING TIP: Accessories go out of style quickly. DO NOT THROW THEM AWAY! Trade with other child owners ("parents") or set aside for later models, as styles tend to come around again on short cycles.

II - WARPING
When the child seems to be veering off the proper path, first check its alignment. Is weight evenly distributed among peer pressure, academic achievement and domestic duty? Next look for signs of uneven wear, as evidenced by split ends, acne or nail biting. Now is not the time for excessive force nor undue leniency, as balance is key. Try loading up on domestic duty to offset everpresent peer pressure. Remuneration is often used as a last resort.

III - DENTED SELF-ESTEEM
This problem often surfaces a few years into this make's high performance years. Rivalry among makes, and especially when competing against opposite models, often leads to recklessness or overly prudent behaviour, the consequences of which tend to dent self-esteem, although it is rarely shattered. Typical repairs include bucking up from the inside with pep talks and age-old parental reassurances, including the tired but fail safe "those others don't have a clue about how special you are, but one day they will see, don't you worry". Add the term"Princess" for deep dents.

IV - PUNCTURED PIPE DREAMS
Often surfacing after the appearance of several self-esteem dents, pipe dream punctures are somewhat more serious, but there are many possible solutions at hand. Try homemade remedies such as an epoxy of hard work rewarded by hard cash, or purchase or trade for new, more modern accessories to dissimulate the repaired seams and holes. Punctured pipe dreams are dramatic, but they often serve to strengthen the child's outer shell, giving it a luster not found in factory fresh bodywork.

V DAMAGED/BROKEN HEART
Likely to occur more than once, repairs are laborious and time-consuming, but damage is rarely permanent. Heart damage is hard to assess, as the child will ocassionally begin banging and clanging for no apparent reason and will just as suddenly stop. However, these episodes often lead to actual broken hearts, which the owner will easily recognize. Sympathy is all that is truly required, and patience to sit it out until the child is ready to function again. Parents may often enjoy a short grace period in which the child, grateful for its unconditional love, dabbles in requitedness and reciprocation. Parents are warned, however, that this reciprocation is only practice for the next Pre-Broken-Hearted episode for which yet more unconditional love and endless sympathy must be on hand.
REMINDER: No returns will be accepted and abandonment will be prosecuted under the law.
Enjoy your child, but remember to always parent safely. Parent groups can be found at your local educational center and on the internet. Toll-free information available.
Fall Edition. Copyright Coveney Editions Ltd. 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Late

The lesson here, I say to myself, head spinning and gut churning from a bad mix of cocktails and embarrassment, is that you can’t go home again.

I’ve thrown myself across the bed, wondering how a simple evening out could end up being such an ungodly waste of time. Even worse, never having had a reputation for anything, I feel like mine’s been ruined in so many shades of gray that I will never rise from the ashes in this town.

Imagine Mother phoning people at 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. Phoning Susan’s parents was bad enough; at least they know me. But phoning Dave? Looking up his number in the local phone book and dialing this previously unknown number in the middle of the night to ask where I am? To be told that I had last been seen in the harbor’s –no, the town’s- only nightclub with someone who is known only by the enigmatic nickname of Owl? To have this pretty, preppy boy in chinos and deck shoes admit that he met Susan and me for drinks at the Bell Buoy, but that he and Susan both left without me?

Does Mother even have a clue of how tiresome Susan can be, how shudderingly boring Dave becomes after a half hour or so? Can she even being to imagine the underlying tension between Owl and me, who’d been shunting around each other for a year, teasing and not even daring to flirt -we were coworkers after all- when we suddenly found ourselves uniformless, timeclockless, dare I say shiftless, with rock and roll, alcohol and dim lighting to guide us through into the night?

What of the driving around on dark backstreets in the middle of the night? The excuse I gave to the brightly-lit kitchen interrogation was: he was a bit drunk, I wanted to wait until he could sober up enough to drive. Who was this person who needed to sober up? Owl. Who the hell calls himself Owl? What kind of a name is that? Who is he anyway? Just a guy. Nobody.

But he had gotten me home safely after all. After a silent car ride during which I shivered and smoked, having longed for a cigarette the entire time I lay under his dead weight on the semi-reclined passenger’s seat of his ‘72 Pinto, waiting not so much for him to sober up as to regain consciousness as I tried to gauge the hour, though there hadn’t been enough light to see my watch, and feebly attempted to wake Prince Charming while staving off the fear that he might not be done heaving and might even be comatose or dying.

Yet not even an hour would have passed since he had finally stopped trying to kiss me again after having opened up the passenger seat door and puked out onto the pavement of the Peggotty Beach parking lot. And that was maybe five minutes after I started wondering what I was doing out at Peggotty Beach after midnight with this oddball geek who was sort of but not really trying to instill passion in this gone-by moment. And who hadn’t been acting anywhere near as drunk as he unaccountably was.

He’d started the car without a hitch, walked a perfectly straight line down the four blocks to his driveway from the back lot of the Bell Buoy, even danced without crushing my toes in a surprisingly sensual slowdance to the perpetual 70’s mixer song, Stairway to Heaven, whose frenetic ending escorted us out the door, finally.

This was not long after Susan and Dave gave up looking at their watches and scowling, first at Owl’s mere intrusive presence, then at my brusque shift in alliances and finally at what had eventually become clear to them as my abandonment of our respectable threesome for the incomprehensible charms of just another disreputable townie. They’d both pursed their lips in their separate yet parallel ways when Owl approached our table, hung his arm over the back of my chair and, ignoring the rolling of their eyes, whisper-shouted in my ear “What’s this song?”
“The Doobie Brothers?” I offered insecurely, but smiling widely. I’d never before seen Owl outside of the store, and it was strangely intimate to be playing the game that entertained us both for hours on end at work, where he stocked the shelves and I rang up the customers’ purchases. Owl, like Dave, had graduated high school a year ahead of me but, unlike Dave, his was not a stop-gap weekend and holiday job, but a real one. Also unlike Dave, Owl had a profound knowledge of the 70’s pop radio we listened to at the store and he quizzed me mercilessly on the names of the bands and the song titles. I started out with a high recognition level of only Michael Jackson (my first love) and Elvis (who died that past summer, for which Sunday-bagger Roger, who was someone’s retired grandfather, offered me his condolences), but I ended up heading to college with a fairly good arsenal of rock and roll trivia under my belt, thanks to Owl.

I’ll grant that Dave and Susan had rights to be pissed. They had not been aware that they were remnants, substitutes for the wild, bright and fascinating friends I had begun making at college, and for the best friend I had in high school, who was now engulfed in an all-encompassing relationship that would culminate in marriage a year and a half from then and which obviously and necessarily excluded me. So when Dave, my bag boy from Curtis Compact, someone who looked like he ought to have been out playing tennis or skiing, depending on the season, but doing something that required his nose to sport a slathering of zinc-oxide and his lips to be coated in chapstick, casually suggested, when I ran into the store to say hi to Bob the manager, that we go out for a drink later, I called Susan as backup.

And when I was pulling on my coat in the hallway of my parents’ house, fresh from the newfound loneliness and freedom of college dorm life and checking for the newly legal ID that would get me past the bouncer at the Bell Buoy, there was absolutely nothing to suggest anything out of the ordinary in my mother’s voice calling after me as I breezed down the stairs and out the garage door:

“Have a good time, and don’t be late!”
*

Friday, October 17, 2008

Strings

It is hard to keep the edges of my life from fraying. When the edges begin to fray, that can only lead to unravelling and breaking, like the strings I weave through the broken spots in the bamboo that shades the terrace and which the wind chastizes and leaves frayed and broken, like the strings that I replace almost always at the very last minute, until at last the bamboo itself must be replaced. Sadly, the edges of my life are harder to tie up, tie down, and there are no replacements. So the idea is to keep them from fraying in the first place, which is hard.

Es difícil evitar que las márgenes de mi vida se deshilachen. Cuando los bordes empiezan a destejerse, sólo puede llevar al deshilachado y la rotura, como las cuerdas que enhebro entre los rotos del bambú que da sombra a la terraza y que el viento castiga y lude hasta romperlo, como las cuerdas que cambio casi siempre en el último instante, hasta que finalmente hay que sustituir el bambú entero. Desgraciadamente, las márgenes de mi vida son más difíciles de sujetar, de atar, y no hay recambios. La idea, pues, es evitar que lleguen a deshilacharse, que es difícil.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Packed

A suitcase isn't difficult to fill. Knowledge of certain facts are required - destination, duration and season - and certain abilities are handy - placing bubble-wrapped breakables in the middle and shoes sole-side out in the corners. Yet when venturing out into the world -summer camp, college or a home of one's own- it would seem more expedient to pack intangibles. Forethought, hindsight, a trustworthy instinct and a healthy dose of joie de vivre. An ability to overcome fear of the dark, to distinguish mouse patterings from settling beams. A knack with a hammer or a sentence or two for chatting up neighbors.
The more enlightened traveller might pack a workable budget that included a loophole for occasional extravagant behavior and excluded the living-beyond-one's-means repair kit. Instead of deodorant and shampoo, packets for inner strength and perseverance may be tucked into hidden pockets. Sharp edges are padded not by white socks for morning runs, but by spontaneity and unexpected kindnesses. Tiny sewing kits are made superfluous because snags and rips can be stitched up by basic ingenuity and an earnest unravelling of complex situations.
Binoculars? No, rather uncompromised ideals and simple ambitions may be used to study the horizons.
Care ought to be taken to leave no empty spaces for doubt and anguish to settle in, which might leave a place for despair to tear through the fabric during one beastly transfer or another. Instead, the exquisitely filled suitcase, zipped with good humor, is packed with a hug for good luck.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Clique

Culled from depths I held
long forgotten, thorns appear to
insinuate themselves,
questioning my sense of self
until that schoolgirl hurt
endured, not overcome, returns.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Island / Isla

Island

Had I ever thought of the words island and us, there would have been beaches and streams, lush woods and tiny, hidden coves, a bungalow in a climate that was never harsh. We would have picked fruit from the trees, and prepared roasts over a fire in the sand. We would have worn light clothing that parted with a breath of air, and we would have gone barefoot, always. Caresses would have been gently plentiful, words would have been softly spoken and decisions would never have been agonized over on this island of ours.

As it is for all lovers, our island existed in that part of our house we called home, in the forever unnecessary words left unsaid, in the proximity in time if not always in space, of your arm, your hand, your cheek.

This island we made, the island of us that you’ve left me on, is a hard place to be. My bare feet have become calloused and bruised, my clothes are drafty. I’ve picked all the low-hanging fruit, and the fire we tended so gleefully has gone out. What was once our closely-guarded intimacy has become my crowded, noisy isolation, and the sprawling conversation that coaxed us through lazy hikes up and down easy, familiar hillsides has ended. That soft word us has become an island, our island, the Island of Us over which I am sole custodian.


Isla

Si alguna vez hubiese pensado en las palabras isla y nosotros, habría habido playas y arroyos, bosques exuberantes y calas recónditas, un bungalow en un clima nunca desapacible. Habríamos cogido la fruta de los árboles, habríamos preparado asados en un fuego hecho en la arena. Habríamos llevado ropa tan ligera que se hubiese separado con un soplo de aire, y habríamos ido descalzos, siempre. Las caricias habrían sido dulcemente copiosas, las palabras suavemente pronunciadas y no se habría tomado jamás con angustia ninguna decisión en esta isla nuestra.

Al igual que para todos los amantes, nuestra isla existía en aquel rincón de nuestra casa que llamábamos hogar, en las eternamente innecesarias palabras no dichas, en la proximidad en el tiempo cuando no en el espacio de tu brazo, tu mano, tu mejilla.

Esta isla que hicimos, la isla de nosotros en que me has dejado, es un lugar inhóspito. Mis pies descalzos se han llenado de callos y de morados; pasan corrientes frías por mi ropa. He recogido toda la fruta de las ramas bajas y el fuego que atendimos tan alegremente se ha apagado. Lo que antes fuera nuestra intimidad celosamente guardada se ha convertido en mi bullicioso aislamiento, y la extendida conversación que nos guiaba con una pereza familiar colina arriba y abajo se ha terminado. Esa suave palabra nosotros se ha convertido en isla, nuestra isla, la Isla de Nosotros de la que soy heredera universal.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Clutter

There is no tabula rasa.
Even in the womb you hear voices that as a newborn you later recognize. The voices acquire faces, forms and gestures to become Mom, Dad and Uncle Joe. There might even be a great-grandmother who hangs around just long enough to bounce you on her wrinkled knee before turning into an old photograph in a stuffy frame at Uncle Joe’s house. Old-lady babysitters (Mom won’t trust teenagers until you’re almost one yourself), coffee-sipping, tongue-wagging Mrs. Rogal and the only other neighborhood child, 3 year-old, blond Kevin enter your world. Even though you don’t remember Kevin, who moved away before you yourself were three, you retain a penchant for straight blond hair.
For a while people, like words and new foods, are thrust at you at ever increasing speed. Montessori school gives you the view of the harbor over a wide expanse of grass and the chestnut-bee-hived Italian teacher, Mrs. Bertucci, singing My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean. Grade schools, summer camps and churches provide an ever-increasing litany of names and faces, voices and gestures. Girlfriends, best friends, boyfriends, roommates, neighbors, partners, husbands, yoga monitors, group therapy leaders, creative writing class teachers and all their integrants and add-ons occupy corners of your ever-more-crowded world and yet somehow, 39 years later, all you remember of 5th grade is a girl named Ginny Burns who was your friend that year but she wasn’t even the friend who shared that first cigarette butt you found on the side of the road at the entrance to the trail through the woods that took you to the big rock you used for telling secrets and, from then on, smoking. Sometimes you confuse the names of your college boyfriend with the name of your ex-husband (they both begin with G…), yet you always have the name Ginny Burns (also a G-name) right there, ready for a use you haven’t found in thirty-nine entire years, with all their days and weeks and months and quarters.
Now more people seem to be leaving than arriving, and yet those who left don’t leave the corners you gave them, even if you don’t have the proper homing equipment to pull them up at will. You can hear Grampy’s voice clear as a bell, but what he’s saying is “Ya dummy!”, and although you can’t put your Grammy’s voice to any of her phrases, you easily access the slim gold link watch she gave you for your 18th birthday and that you lost when some stranger bumped your left wrist while you were walking home after work with the sun in your eyes along Bravo Murillo in Madrid in the fall of 1983.
If there were a tabula rasa, you could extract all those names you don’t need -Ginny Burns just lost forever- and you could sift through it all so that instead of seeing Pep’s eyes half-closed and rolled back in his head with little slits of white peeping out from his coma, you could see the way he looked at you and smiled after he bent to kiss you in the middle of Plaça Catalunya and said "de esto tendremos que conversar", and you could bring up and hold the way his bearded cheek felt under the palm of your right hand, and forever erase the silky softness of the hairs along his right arm, the skin of which you just couldn’t bring yourself to touch as it cooled and you waited.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Memories

Memories don’t get parking tickets
and they don’t play music you hate after a long day at work.

Memories don’t leave the toilet seat up
and they don’t snore.

Memories don’t make you walk all the way home after the late show
rather than hail a cab.

Memories make saints and martyrs
but not great disciplinarians.

Memories don’t give in and buy the playstation you refused, but neither do they haul anyone up short saying “don’t talk to your mother that way!”

Memories don’t know when to pour you a glass of wine
and they don’t weather your bad moods with grace.

Memories make great angels and heroes
but really sucky lovers.

Memories can’t hold you close.

Memories can’t fill in the blanks.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

Enough

I read to you while you sat before your tray, chewing determinedly at the leg of chicken while I carefully, lingeringly, just short of happily narrated the story of Macondo and the Buendía family. Almost always someone would come in before you were done and I would fold the book around my right index finger in the vain hope that they would hold up in the doorway, smile and back out to let you finish, to let us finish, but eventually I would slip the red ribbon in the place held by my finger (forever now between pages 264 and 265) and put Gabo aside.

After the tray was whisked away and the pills dispensed and the shots administered, you would place your long fingers squarely over the arms of the chair and slowly unbend yourself into a standing wobble, reach out to give my shoulder a squeeze before you settled your feather weight on it for the slow, bathrobed shuffle along the busy corridor. Taking a right, down the longer way you would head first, nodding to the jaunty executive who trailed his wheeled drip behind him. As we crossed the nurses’ station you would smile at the young nursing aides, who would regale you with wide, surprised smiles of their own. Past the still noisy visitor waiting rooms, you would avoid the open doors of the elderly and the semi-conscious, turning around at the stairwell where you would often give me a kiss and lace your fingers through mine to head back up the home stretch to the opposite end of the second floor Palliative Care ward.

Your father would usually end your constitutional, hailing you from the doorway of your room: “Què tal un massatge, chato? Com tenim aquests peus?”, rubbing his hands with our almond oil as you settled back into the dingy brown armchair to pull up your pajama legs and lay your swollen ankles in my lap to let El Jefe work out his perplexity and fury on your calves and shins, purportedly to bring the swelling down with his energetic chafing.

Once he and whoever else who remained had straggled their way out, heartily encouraging your speedy recovery, I would curl up next to you for a few minutes, then run my hands softly over your shoulders and arms, your thighs and calves until your brow softened, your eyes began to droop and I could feel you relax. Then I knew I could leave you for the night. I would stand, press my lips to yours, collect my things, check your water, your pillow and edge toward the door. “¿Estás bien?” I would ask every evening with a warrior’s smile and wait for you to smile back and nod. But that night when I asked instead “¿Cómo te encuentras?” you raised your head, boring your eyes into mine with a look that was more defiant than tender, and clearly, emphatically replied: “Enamorado”.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Foggy

Summer in a beach town in New England is the epitome of freedom. Long days spent biking to the beach or the harbor or to the bridge over the creek the next town over run into long evenings that are never called nights because then it would be bedtime, even for a precocious twelve-year-old. But where summer vacation is freedom, family vacation is something else entirely. Primarily, of course, the vacation is for Dad. Dad’s a sailor, so the family vacation involves sailing, for which Dad keeps a boat, of which, naturally, he is the captain. And what, besides a boat and two weeks of vacation time, does a captain need? A crew, of course; preferably an obedient, willing and cheerful crew. Instead, Captain Dad, who for the other 50 weeks of the year leaves the house early and returns late, has four crew members who spend their time in separate rooms, when not separate yards and even neighborhoods, and who are not necessarily gung-ho about spending 14 days and 14 nights in that large boat’s itty-bitty living space, where Mom has nowhere to sneak a butt, Brother has no cookie jars to rob, Sister has no doors to slam or hallways to stomp down, and you… Well, you are twelve!
Eventually, a day or two in, as you are wont to do when stuck out at sea at the mercy of Captain Dad and his crew, you become acclimated. You learn to duck when Dad’s boom whips across the deck on a jibe, regardless of whether or not you heard or understood his casual “hard-a-lee”. You remember what the halyard is, where to stow the winch and how to secure a fender with a half hitch. If you are twelve, you also learn how to keep the radio low enough so no one realizes you’re below deck listening to the top 40 and reading in your bunk, when everyone else is heaving over the side into the long high waves, while you savor what is your newly-found, most-prized possession: solitude.
Then one day you’re cruising on an overly calm sea while the sun seems to diffuse, weakening in a sky that fades from blue to yellow to white, as the ocean stills and the sail does more luffing than billowing until it goes slack in the dense graying air, and Captain Dad sends you forward to go stand at the bow and watch out for lobster pot markers and buoys, because you are sailing right into a bank of misty, then silvery, then thick-as-pea-soup fog. At first, you concentrate with all your might (you still want to be Captain Dad’s favorite First Mate, after all), staring into the dirty gray-green water below the blue Keds you dangle over the bow pulpit. As the whiteness slowly closes in around you, you stand and call aft, “Lobster pot to starboard!” You listen hard for the sharp clang of the buoy, but when it comes it is much softer and more muffled than you expected, and you can’t see even its shadow. “Bouy to port, I think!” you call back, glancing past where you ought you see the outline of the mast, but the cockpit, where your family should be, is blank and silent, as if it were lost to you.
Looking back out over the bow, down at your hand as it tightly grips the rail, you notice tiny drops that have gathered to glisten atop each hair that stands straight up on your bare arm. You breathe in the damp air, alone in this foggy universe for a few silent moments, when even the slap of hull against water is barely audible and your scope of vision consists entirely of your own tanned, beaded forearm.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sour

Thin lips, painted an orange-tinged red, stretch to near oblivion before they begin their slow puckering. They pucker in, not up, and the eyes droop down, mated in disapproval.

A storm has gathered. More like a squall. Guileless you in your metaphorical boat have not correctly calibrated the gathering cloud cover, and if you don’t just drop the sail and ride it out, you will be tossed and sprayed and bandied about until you either heave or capsize (or both). But you never drop the sail in time. You never see it coming. So you hunker down without your foul-weather gear and remind yourself that, once it’s over, the sun will gradually reappear and the seas will calm.

Yet you have not mollified. You have not redeemed yourself. The thin sunset-red lips remain puckered, and there is nothing left to do but usher out the day gone sour.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fierce


He took my hand, leading me around the cups of beer, the elbows and knees beneath the fireworks and symphonic bursts of the pyrotechnical show at Montjüic fountain, and I would have gladly had our knuckles weld. I wanted to loose my hair in wisps of grape-vine tendrils when, later, he stretched his left arm out under my pillow.
He used to say that he was the one who gave the final push when Julia was born, pulled out of me with suction cups and black-eye forceps (unlike her sister, who was reaped with a scalpel).
Now I want to grow tentacle fingers and place them –airtight- on the sleekly polished backs of my girls and so guide them past my stumbling blocks.
I have no tentacles, no tendrils, no welded knuckles, so I pull at the heartstrings I left dangling behind me on my long wanderings, to reel in the friend who croaks back, crouched down in his own homegrown jungle camouflage.
I form fierce attachments.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hoard

Hermione had a sharp sword,
Once admired as part of a hoard.
A sword, as a friend,
Remains hard to defend.
Dare not cross it, lest you, too, are gored.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Punchline

Judy sat at the top of the attic steps beside a battered old actor’s trunk, out of which spilled many colorful hats. Punch was pulling them out hand over fist, tossing them behind him with hardly a glance. A floppy, celestial blue bridesmaid’s hat caught his attention. He held it aloft as sparkly motes of dust settled along its wide brim.
“Try this one on, Judy,” he said abruptly. “Maybe someone will want to kiss you then.” He slammed the hat down so hard on Judy’s head that the brim ripped right off. Judy rubbed her neck and picked the bits of hat remains out of her hair.
“That’s not the way you do it, Punch,” she said in a peevishly shrill tone of voice.
Punch rummaged again in the trunk and this time came up with a white top hat with two purple stripes running down the sides.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he cried, as he balanced the ringmaster’s hat on top of his own jester’s crown, “we now present the amazing case of the Silent Woman!” He drew back his slap stick and swiped it through the air with all his might, aiming right below Judy’s jaw. But clever Judy had put on a necklace of Spanish doubloons, which broke the stick in two.
“That’s not the way you do it, Punch,” she screeched, although her voice held an undertone of derision.
Punch tossed away the broken stub of the slap stick and dove to the bottom of the deep dark trunk. He popped up again holding his hands behind his back.
“Have I got a lovely surprise for you, Judy!” he cried. “Now, close your eyes!”
“I most certainly will not close my eyes, Punch. What’s that you’ve got hidden behind you?” Judy barked suspiciously.
Punch turned his back to Judy, hunching over his prize, then he slowly twirled around to face her again, hugging to his chest a green fedora.
“Oh, now that is lovely, Punch!” Judy cried, holding her hands out for the hat. “I will look marvellous in it, I will!” she shrieked.
“Just hold on, now, Judy,” Punch chided her. He peeked down his chest, into the inside of the green fedora, where a seven-legged spider sat. “You have to adjust these hats just so,” he continued. “Hold still now, my dear Judy.”
Punch tossed the fedora from his chest right onto Judy’s rumple-haired head, but before Judy could lift a hand to adjust the hat, out raced the spider to spin its web round and round her head. As it swung itself about in a frenzy of spinning, the spider seemed to hum, and as it hummed and spun, Judy became quieter and whiter and when the spider was done, there sat Judy the mummy beneath Charlie's green fedora. Punch clapped and danced around the Judy mummy and shouted out in his finest swazzle twang:
“That’s the way to do it!”

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Forgotten

I

I've been gutted.
Heart, soul, guts ripped out, forgotten
in the gutter.

Worse yet, I've
forgotten what they feel like.
Heart, soul, guts.

II

An absence of pain
As though the wound had been healed
Forgotten no more.

III

A vortex is what it ends up feeling like, although in the beginning it is barely a crack, a leak, a trickle. It seems to take a very long time to begin, but once you’ve noticed it, the trickle has become rapids cascading down the mountainside of your life.
It has nothing to do with names or keys. Surprisingly enough, computers offer the oddly comforting simile of the folder you open only to find it empty. Not a single file in it. Worse yet, you can’t for the life of you remember why the folder is named “Do-dads”.
The blank you draw leads you down the uncomfortable path of half-remembered sensations that you think you might recall if only you could remember where you felt them, or when.
You want to ask your dead husband, “What was it you whispered in my ear just as the city bus roared past?”, which he ran to catch and so you never got the chance to say “What?” That whispering, that restaurant, that day at that beach, they’re all at that place where memories are vacuumed up as if into a black hole to be left festering beside all the other memories that you don’t even know you’ve forgotten.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Baby

Rain held forth in the jungle
Under the banana leaves,
Below the persistent ferns.
Bedlam seemed a more perfect answer to the
Endless dripping against the
Rubber plants.

Broken fronds lay in ruins
Across the path laid out
By the baby elephant that ran
Yelping after its mother.

Bogus mining carts wheeled along
Ugly logging roads in the soft
Golden light of morning like old-fashioned buggies
Guided by black-hooded nannies along Oz’s
Yellow-brick road.

Bands of furtive eco-poachers,
Using refurbished artisan-quality
Machine guns as they elbowed and
Pushed rhythmically against
Each other like boats against bumpers,
Raided the lone shelter under the quiet
Softly falling cover of the rain.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Do 2 Sucky Poems Make One Effort? "Worry"

The Photo


Your cheek pressed to mine
Smiling. Oh, how we did smile.
No need to worry.

Furry

A flurry
of worries
took the curry
by surrey
to the Murray's
in a hurry.

Friday, May 23, 2008

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