Monday, January 25, 2010

Happy. Said the Girl

What are you chasing? Asked the Girl.
A Bird. Said the Boy. I will catch her
And then tie a string around her neck
and carry her home.

Why? Asked the Girl. Couldn't you let her live?
No. Said the Boy. This is how my Father taught me to hunt.

What are you chasing? Asked the Boy.
Happiness. Said the Girl.
It looks more like a butterfly. Remarked the Boy.
You'd think that wouldn't you? But She is Happiness. Said the Girl.
How do you know? Asked the Boy.
Because I catch her, let her wings kiss my cheek,
And then I release her to the wind again.
Said the Girl.

Oh. Said the Boy. Like chasing birds.
Yes. Said the Girl. Only not really.
No, not really. Agreed the Boy.
But it's something like my father's smile.
Yes. Said the Girl with her grin. Something like.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Blood Red Clay

The heat soaked into his bones and then seeped out his skin in fat droplets as he hauled the feed in, bag by bag the loathesome load. He paused to remove his hat and wipe his forehead with his kerchief, and he saw a rider on the horizon. The horse seemed driven, his purpose fuled by an anxious master. He stopped and dropped his hand to his wagon's gate, waiting for the trouble he saw riding with the horseman. The stranger pulled up, sharp on his reins and met McDonald with coldness in his eyes. Dan met the stranger's gaze, "Can I help you?," he asked in his courteous storekeep's tone, the one that let brusque customers know he was unfazed.
"You Dan McDonald?"
"Yeah, that's me. I keep this store and this is my farm back behind. What do you want with me?"
"They told me you was a fool," the rider sneered, "but I didn't know you was so fool to speak to me so careless."
"And who might you be?"
"I'm a Campbell, and that's all you need know. Yours and mine been fightin' all the way back to the homeland. You best show me some respect, boy."
"I'm no boy. This is my place your standin' on, so I think you ought show me respect." Dan's voice tightened as he felt the old swells of anger rising in him. "I don't take kindly to strangers comin' on my place and pickin' a fight with me!" He knew he was yelling and couldn't stop it. He felt the brawls of his youth rising up in him and urging him on.
"I ain't pickin'!" In one swift lift of his leg, Campbell had dismounted and stepped up to Dan. He thought to step back, but too late, and he felt lightening stinging through his chest, like when it strikes you in a wet field. He stared into Campbell's cold grey eyes, so close and locked into his for a moment. Dan felt the blade as it was jerked from his stomach, felt the tearing of skin and muscle as blood roared in his ears. He staggered and felt the land tip sideways. He was on the ground when he woke again, red clay was in his nostrils and he saw across the flatness of the ground, hooves far off, hitting the ground in a rapid cadence, beating out a retreat. Then the screams assaulted his ears.
"Murder! MURDERER! O my God, O Jesus help us, Dan's been killed! That man is a murderer!" Mary Blanche's shrieks reached a dangerously high pitch. He looked up to see his Blanche, her blue sleeves flapping from the second-story window as she proclaimed to anyone who would listen that he was dying.
Death felt slow. There were many people about, he felt arms grabbing him and hauling him onto something wooden. Customers and neighbors were putting him on a door they'd scrounged, taken off its hinges to bear his body. He passed out again.
Blanche wept as the men awkwardly scooped up Dan's intestines and laid them on his body. They loaded the door into the back of his wagon and made the harsh trip from North Carrolton to the hospital in Greenwood. It was all jumbled in Dan's mind, the passage to a clean-sheeted hospital bed; there had been dreams more vivid than any he could remember. He saw Blanche floating above him in white, holding a baby and crying, the baby she'd lost to tuberculosis in her first marriage. He dreamed with a terrible sense of loss of the babies he would not give her, the family he would not raise, the land he would not cultivate.
The surgeon and his nurses cut Dan's clothes from his body and placed them in a box. They gently raised his intestines and bathed them clean, tucking them back in the gaping hole that was his abdomen. The doctor stitched up Dan's wounds as he slept, giving him back his dreams. Blanche took the box of bloody clothes and placed it in their attic; they were the best evidence she had against the man who had surely murdered her husband. She had fitful dreams at night about revenge, but the box lay dormant, and three months later Dan came home. The authorities never found Campbell.
As he stocked his store and harvested his crops, as he bedded his wife and raised his children, he would think of Campbell's reasoning, "Yours and mine have always been fightin'." He would shrug his shoulders and think with a sad Irish sigh that it was as good a reason as any other.

Eve of the New Year

I don't know much for sure
The only constant is change

Outside, the wind whips birch trees
And the clouds remain for another day.
Ask me about winter,
And I will tell you about war.

That year was the longest winter of my life
Filled with days that never counted
Months erased by their monotony and solitude.

Outside, the snow comes for another day
We are trapped inside by our fears and doubts
Ask me about loss,
And I will tell you about a year

When I chased the moth that grew in my brain
It was a shadowy thing not meant to be pinned
Beauty is such a live thing, not dead or framed.

That year was the second longest winter of my life.

I don't know anything.
I'm only grateful
for the constancy of change.

3:55 AM

I am not A, B, and C,
Can't follow steps 1, 2 and 3.
I wish I was so simple and I could
Squash people into holes, make them good.
We are slippery things, we humans are,
And if I could categorize,
I love lists, I would.
But we are all demonfire and angel eyes
Born from eager coupling or unlawful knowing
And especially from the rote spousal meeting.

A new year is dawning
And if I could reach my goals by following rules,
I'm tired now, I would.
But I'm getting older and finally see
Through the stack of self-help on my shelf.
Some days I wake up and I'm kind, love my kids,
Say the thing I should. And some nights I wake,
Find I'm vampire, murderer and whore.
Does that make you shudder? What for?
You are not so simple either
And I'm glad of it; I'd be bored.

Friday, January 8, 2010

My Favorite Books in 2009

1. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
2. Dream Work by Mary Oliver (poetry)
3. The Essential Neruda ed. by Mark Eisner (poetry)
4. Me and My Baby View the Eclipse by Lee Smith
5. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
6. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
7. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
8. North by Seamus Heaney (poetry)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My German Life: Tidbits

I can't seem to organize my brain enough to write about any one thing, so instead of essay, you are getting random tidbits in the form of bulletin points.
1. It's really dark here in the winter. We are at the same latitude as Newfoundland, if that helps all my American friends gain some perspective. The sun has set by 4:30 pm, and in the morning it rises at....well, it doesn't rise most days, or doesn't appear to. We have very few sunny days here, and they are always a cause for great rejoicing; we emerge from the cocoon of our apartments and stomp around in our boots triumphantly when they occur. I was more excited about Winter Solstice arriving than Christmas. I'm from Mississippi and my favorite vacations involve loads of sunshine and a beach; I think you can guess how I feel about the darkness.
All this darkness can be the impetus for a very deep depression. Everyone here claims to have S.A.D. and we all self-medicate to some degree or another. This usually involves some combination of caffeine, vitamins and happy pills. I've said "yes, please" to all three. I even started taking a vitamin B complex sublingually, which means I drop the yucky-fake-cherry-tasting liquid in my mouth under my tongue and hold it there for 30 seconds and then swallow. Very gross, very weird, but if somebody told me that sucking on a cow's udder twice a day would give me energy and peace of mind, I'd probably do that too.

2. It has snowed fairly frequently, beginning in December, and I love this. It never snowed in the southern U.S. states I've always lived in. Okay, fine, it snowed in Mississippi and Oklahoma before it snowed here this winter, dammit. I don't what the hell is going on, but it finally started here and nothing makes me happier than walking to the high school in the morning darkness to substitute teach and feeling the snowflakes drop lightly on my face. The flakes seem to have more delicacy and frilly tendrils than the ones I saw on rare occasions in the U.S. Maybe I'm over-romanticizing things again, but I've seen some amazingly beautiful snowflakes here. Or maybe I'm just now old enough to take the time to stop and examine them.

3. My sister, brother-in-law and two nephews flew from Vienna to spend a week with us for Christmas. We had a great time and showing them around Heidelberg reminded me how much I LOVE this city. I found out from Facebook that "love" is the second-most used word in my status updates, which made me realize I use that word way too freely. But I can say quite honestly, I love Heidelberg. It is the perfect size, not too big, but big enough to feel urban. Even in winter, it is stunningly picturesque. Joel and I went out to eat to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary, and as we walked to our destination, we paused on one of the brückes that span the Neckar river (which flows through Hberg) and took time to enjoy the view. The beautiful schloss is lit up at night and is perched up on a hill where it gracefully watches the town's inhabitants. The river flows off out of view, obscured by Heidelberg's lantern-dotted hills, and that spot where it disappears beckons to me. Some day I will find out where the Neckar goes from here, because life is just too short to miss out on the lovely mysteries of the unknown. Some day...

My Top 10 Movies from 2009

Again: I watched it this year; it may not have come out in 2009.
1. There Will Be Blood
2. Slumdog Millionaire
3. Two Lovers
4. Adaptation
5. Let the Right One In
6. Synecdoche, New York
7. The Visitor
8. American History X (I finally watched it)
9. The Brothers Bloom
10. Inglorious Basterds

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Top 10 Songs of 2009

(This doesn't necessarily mean it came out this year; It is just a favorite of mine from this year)
1. "Eet" by Regina Spektor
2. "A Falling Through" by Ray LaMontagne
3. "Sexy Bitch" by David Guerra
4. "I'm Not Your Toy" by LaRoux
5. "He Lays in the Reins" by Iron & Wine (& "Burn That Broken Bed" & "Dead Man's Will")
6. "Looking Up" by Paramore
7. "I Don't Need a Soul" by Relient K
8. "Day and Night" by Kid Cudi
9. "The Verb" by The Swell Season
10. "All I Need" by Radiohead

One more: "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010 Resolutions

1. Beat my sister in our "Biggest Loser" contest. Winning is the only motivating force in my life.
2. Train for the Vienna Frauenlauf 10k
3. "Be kind, Be kind, Be kind."
4. Submit, submit, submit (not in the biblical sense)
5. If you don't have anything intelligent to say, don't say anything at all.
6. Stay true to my vow: I will never read the Twilight series.
7. Visit 10 new countries
8. Let go of the guilty bitch inside..."Sciencedamn you!"
9. Be 100x hotter at 30 then I ever dreamed of being at 20. Growing up is pretty sexy, after all.
10. Hang out with my best friend on the French Riviera (no bitching out, Girl, it's a resolution!)