Friday, January 29, 2010

I can already tell. I lost a lovely smile somewhere and many colors dropped out.

There was lots of talk that month, about what would happen, or how good it would be, if…and then there was always the something that needed to change. That’s how these things usually go. A person. A location. A move to another city. The meals we should, instead, be preparing. The move, now just a trip to Brooklyn in the spring.

Outside, the sound of trains being put together. It’s not so far from here. You can hear the echo of the steel meeting, the heavy jostle falling through the trees, hammering down the street and then finally it’s here, right here, how can it be? inside the walls of the house.

The glass door knob, like a gem stone, falls out on the other side of the shut door, leaving you astonish, yet again. You listen as it rolls, like something lethargic and spoiled, inside on the hardwood. You are standing there, do you understand? in the dark, a heavy glass bulb in the palm of your hand, a threaded stem extended out, aiming at what is now only a vacancy. And you can suddenly imagine, in a different context maybe, being handed this same object and having no earthly idea what use or purpose it once served, admiring it only for its odd and misunderstood beauty. You can imagine lots of things.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Chalcosoma Atlas

…for Zoe

Willfully oblique, said the man at the counter. “But what’s willful about it?” She asked him. He placed the tiny absurd looking beetle between them on top of the display case and they both stared down at it. Behind him the wall was lined with butterflies in glass cases, each one framed in a pale colored wood against a white background. The beetle looked horrendous in comparison. “The species is willful,” he said. “It resists entomological uniformity. In fact, its entire evolutionary process is willful.” “Huh,” she said.

Willfully oblique, she repeated softly to herself in the back of the cab. In her palm was a small glass case mounted on a dark piece of polished walnut. The light came through the rear window over her shoulder and formed a prism in the corner of the little glass box which bent the light just so and dappled a multihued pattern onto her skirt.

The Lamellicom beetle vibrated on its pin as the cab went over seams in the asphalt and it almost appeared as if it were still alive, swimming on its pin in the vacuum of the glass box. It had a metallic green back that seemed to change color as she titled her head or viewed it from different sides. Three shinny black horns came out of its head like long mandibles, all facing forward, two on the outermost edges and the last one right in the center of its face, like an upward turned hummingbird beak.

Nothing about the beetle made any sense to her and so she liked it very much. She had chosen it over the butterflies and felt that with this choice alone she had acted in faith that the more obscure things in the world are here for a reason. Willfully so. There was a tiny brass plaque on one side of the walnut base that read Chalcosoma atlas.

“Atlas,” she said. “You were born at right angles to the world, and so was I.”

After a few minutes she asked the cab driver to stop at a pharmacy. (HA) She brought Atlas inside with her and placed him on her knee while she waited in a small vinyl chair for her prescription to be filled.

“What is that?” A little girl asked, dropping down beside her so suddenly that she had to reach out to keep the glass case from sliding off her knee. She repositioned it and they both looked at it.

“This is Atlas. He, is, a, beetle.”

“It’s ugly,” the little girl said promptly, lowering her head and leveling her eyes to the case.

“It’s not ugly,” she said. “It’s oblique.”

“What is a bleet?”

“Oblique. It means something is, well, it means it has a different approach to things.”

The little girl peered hard into the case again. “Do you have other bleets?”

“No,” she said, “This is my first one.”

Monday, October 19, 2009


We talked once about the tunnel. Do you remember this? The tunnel? It began in my basement. I suffered its completion almost constantly. The tunnel. It became like a wound. I wanted to constantly examine it. I wanted to look at it every hour of the day, to be inside it. To be making this thing, to be moving toward you—impossible, I know it now—in the wet dark. I hoped to come to you someday with the sap of roots in my hair. I hoped your fingers would snag in the tangles. I was young, let’s not forget that.

The irony of this is not lost on me now. The hidden nature of the idea. That bus routes would move above me, dust falling into my lungs with the distant rumble above. Grass would grow. Yes, the whole thing, the daily thing, the unavoidable, would still be happening, but not for me. I would be the undetected thing, the movement, the unpredictable unthinkable thing beneath it all, coming to you, always coming to you.

I would begin in the early morning, walking down the basement steps, taking a deep breath at the bottom, already tasting the metallic unsophisticated earth on the back of my teeth. And there, at the bottom of the steps, staring at me, the gaping hole in the basement wall, the vulval opening, aimed south like a subway, but much much smaller. Just large enough for my shoulders—which are not broad—a few feet off the basement floor.

We called it a life line, between you and I. Or I did anyway. Lifeline. Lifeline. Beneath the fields of Bowman and the fallow tobacco of St. George, it ran on for 110 miles. When it was completed I didn’t have the heart to tell you. It was too late perhaps. I slept in the dirt beneath your apartment, lying in my own open wound, bracing myself against the new sounds above. The conjugal bed groaned in a dark ominous key through the dirt, my hands against the vascular ceiling. A clot in the artery. Worms in the cuffs of my trousers and ground water in my belly. I tried, as Rutherford said, to sleep with the Christ in my heart, but he squirmed and kept me up all night.

Should I go now the extra 450 miles? Listening to the mad waters of Avery Creek from the dark secret plow. Moving quietly as before, beneath the thistles of Woodbury only to drown after mistakenly digging a hair too shallow beneath the J Percy Priest Reservoir.


Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Kenyon Review published a story of mine this week.

here's the link

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


“I passed by and saw you helplessly kicking about, covered in your own blood. I said to you, ‘live’ and you lived. You thrived like a plant in the field. You grew up and became beautiful. Your breasts became full and your hair grew long, but still, you were naked and bare.”

-Ezekiel 16: 6-7

Ada was seven years old when she cut her bangs off at the scalp, leaving a shocked row of thick blond stubble in a crescent shape across the top of her brow. A week later, while changing the sheets, her mother found the nest of hair secretly crammed between the box spring and the mattress.

When the girl turned eighteen she disappeared for three days and came home from Savannah with two exultant seraphs tattooed on both sides of her chest. The seraphim’s feet, arched back and pointed downward, as if in the first moments of flight, were covered over by a pair of wings that looked as if they had been chiseled out of stone that extended down to her lowest ribs. The highest wings swooped out in front of the seraphim’s faces and converged directly between her breasts, almost touching tip to tip at the base of her neck. That night Ada stood in her bra in the wooden paneled living room of her step father’s house, sweaty, indignant and proud and said, “Are you crying?” and her mother said, “Dear Jesus,” and walked out. Her mother wept bitterly and accidentally broke one of the fake glass handles on the chest of drawers. In bed, her husband's skin smelled strangely sour again, again, where does it come from, that smell. She was exhausted and sad.

“She was so pretty. I don’t understand why she does half the things she does. She’s just plain determined to ruin her self anyway she can and now she is going to look like some kind of freak, and she can’t wear her pretty dresses anymore, or maybe she will and then it will be worse. God it’s awful. Ted, are you awake? I mean it really is awful. Did you see her? The things she gets into her head. I can’t imagine where…well it’s from her father is where. He was always getting all sorts of foolishness stuck in his head and doing and talking all sorts of foolishness and making a mess of everything. Ted?”

“Uh huh”

“I love you.”

“Love you too sugar.”

The next day in the grocery store her mother stood with a wooden face before an arrangement of white tulips, the cool sugared air from the flower case moving across her wrists and touching her thighs. She imagined Ada soaking in a bathtub. She saw an image of herself kneeling by the tub with a bar of soap in her hand, watching as the bath water turned an inky shade of blue. The seraphim on the sides of her daughter’s chest turned hazy, the sharp contrast and details of the feathers and the powerful and ominous arc of the wings dissolved and ran down over her ribs and into the water like blood. Then there was only the dull shape, a faint outline on her sides and across the top of her breasts where the triumphant creatures had been, and soon even that was gone completely, and the pale skin seemed more perfect than usual. It seemed to cast its own light. Her mother imagined kissing her ravenously, the backs of her hands, behind her ears. The taste of soap. She saw the inky water running down the drain and the dark line it would leave around the inside edge of the tub.

It was when the stock boy needed to squeeze by her that she realized where she was and that she was quietly crying again. Then she wiped her face and bought an arrangement of tulips, because they were on sale and also because she was embarrassed to think she had been seen staring at them.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cherry Tree

Your quiet mother watched from her window as you leaned the ladder up against the cherry tree. Your good father watched from his vineyard as the hem of your dress disappeared into the blossoms of the lowest branches. For a moment your father thought he saw a man’s shadowy figure moving quickly up the rungs of the ladder behind you but he couldn’t be certain. In his worry he cut off his hands with vine shears and buried them in the soil at his feet so that his prayers could go down into the earth and be heard like Cane’s blood as it went down into the earth.

In the thick shouldered limbs a young man taught you how to eat the fruit of that tree without using your hands. You arched your long back and tilted your head, moving your open mouth up towards the clusters of fruit like a nursing calf. You flicked a cherry with the tip of your tongue and laughed. Then you clutched the cherry between your teeth and broke its sour skin and pulled it down from the limb. The young man rested in the branches beside you on his back like a king and you retrieved fruit for him with your mouth. You brought the cherries to him, one by one, and pushed them past his lips with your tongue.When there were no more cherries he began to devour your mouth.

“Al dente” he said, as he chewed the tip of your tongue.

Your smile became crimson and grotesque. Blood lined the gaps between your teeth and colored your inner lip like wine and the man told you that you tasted ferrous like iron and sweet like cherry and you were suddenly terrified.

“My first communion was also a nightmare,” He said.

But of course, you could not speak.

When you finally fell from the tree it was very dark and the ladder was no longer there. Your lanky body made a dull crunch on the damp roots and you woke after some time to find your arm distorted and turned unnaturally beneath you. You looked up at him resting in the branches as you lay on the dewy ground and he laughed looking down at you and said, “My darling, are you going somewhere? To whom will you go?”

And still, you could not speak.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008


You sat still for Sargent with lilies hanging over your heart and hair as black as coal.

Earlier that morning you fitted your collar and said “The Richardsons will walk with folded hands today?” And your little girl said, “Yes.”

Then you cut your bangs and brushed and braided your slate hair until it shined like pitch and you suddenly remembered a dream you had where each lock of your hair was a small Raven with slick black feathers and ink eyes and you worried that if your braids were to come loose at the ends that all the Ravens might fly out of your hair, leaving it the color and texture of granite, but when your hair came down the Ravens never flew. Instead, they nested.

You put away the dream the same way someone might fold a wilted flower into the pages of a book and hope not to find it again.

It was John Singer Sargent who held your chin in the top of his fist, and who turned your head just slightly, and who turned your shoulders, just slightly. It was John who saw how shallow your eyes were, and how narrow your mouth and lips, how pale your skin. It was John who made your shoulders disappear into the walls.

And you sat, as if you were peering through the floor, while the Singer roughed your form in charcoal pencil. Then, after awhile, came the sweet smell of the oils. You looked at his right shoe, newly shined that morning, and by mistake you thought once again about the Ravens except this time you were certain that you could feel the prickle of their perch across your scalp