Thursday, October 6, 2016

Er...What is Crawling on My Ankle?

Good morning/afternoon/evening! I'm back at the picnic area, enjoying the cool breeze that comes with cloud cover and the will it/won't it grey of potential rain. Wind in the oaks sounds an awful lot like rain, actually. And things (such as leaves) will fall on you. Probably still safe for the devices, though, right?

Today there have been more,larger bugs at the table. At least one carpenter (?) looks like an ant but moves fast. And it's maybe half an inch long? So far, it's explored the water bottle, my keys, and, just now, my ankle. As it turns out, ankles carry significantly greater risk of minor crushing injuries...although in this case, more sweeping than crushing. It seemed fine. I'm sure it's fine.

I don't know why sitting out here makes me so solicitous of the insects. Perhaps a mild form of Writer's block? Probably the same reason I'm facing the parking lot, so I can see all the people who are jogging and feel completely sedentary trying to write around the ants and whatever that thing is that looks like a crawling chunk of concrete. And that jet engine masquerading as a bug.

In front of me is a circular concrete pad that used to have a small grill bolted to the center. Crawling concrete and former grill pads in the chape of tiny saucer-landing platforms should spark something...combined with the guy who is 'jogging' while catching up on his phone calls. Guess that's just modernity, though. Aliens who encounter too many blasé people? People who aren't really interested in first contact but in better phones and hey-what-kind-of-cool-tech do you have?

Maybe the aliens aren't interested in us, either.

I'm sure the bugs would prefer a clear table for hunting and whatnot, if not sloppy patrons with scavengable trash. All I have are pens and paper, which I'd prefer to not have chewed while I' Is there something on my ankle again?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Mercer Mornings

Okay, let's try this again. Maybe Google won't eat my post THIS time. It's been awhile since I posted--I've been missing Magpie Tales and the poetry prompts and caught up in the poetry collection that I'd like to have finished by the end of October, jut in time for the literary marathon that is NaNoWrimo. When the collection is done, I'm sure I'll have a post about whether or not I'm brave enough to put it up on Amazon.

Meanwhile, it's one of the last cool mornings until the next cool front next week (that's fall in this part of Texas, waiting for each gust of seasonal temps in between the heat) and I came out to Mercer's picnic side to catch up on some writing. Instead, I find myself watching the ladybug with the one damaged wing crawl all over the top of the picnic table and contemplating how to convince the tiny green spider to move from the lip of my water bottle so that can have a sip, too. Pretty sure the spider is set for the day. I have to wonder what a clear, condensate-heavy water bottle looks like to a spider. Probably not something you'd want to climb down.

There are other small bugs that blend in with the concrete picnic table. I notice them when they scuttle across my draft, seem to realize they are reality-tv exposed, and leap back onto the composite surface. At this point, I'm convinced several of these little stones might conceal creepy-crawlies, but it's cool and the shade and presumably we're all happy to have our own little patch of picnic table. I am herding the carpenter ants away from my shorts.

I've been thinking about doing something slightly different for NaNo this year: two novellas rather than one novel. My short story about birds and wizards in Houston has swum into wider waters than I expected and I think it would benefit from the increased length and I'd still like to work on my robot story. I'm not a sci-if person, generally, but I have reached a point where I hate abandoning devices (cell phone, tablet) for the latest model because we can't upgrade them or whatever reason the consumption/growth-minded crowd comes up with this year. Would we continue to do so with sentient tech? So...two very different stories, two different side of the brain? NaNo has been pretty rough for me the past few years and I'm hoping this keeps me motivated.

It seems that the day has warmed up enough that the spiders are restless. Guess that means I should get on with the day.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

All the Heat of the Afternoon

All the Heat of the Afternoon

He preaches to the three dogs,
Terrier mixes shining in the heat--
They pant and grin and tumble,
Then his pale eyes spear me.
He casts words but the window's up.
It deflects them, smothers my prayers
Before they ignite in the daylight,
A/C soft as a votive candle.
The car is neither confessional
Nor salvation. A/C bleeds out.
You can smell the tar simmer underneath
Dark drops sweating through concrete pores
Beneath my soles, slick rubber footprints
Leading beyond the curb, smeared
Across the grass dying in those vapors.
Shade fills with still, solid heat.
A hot sigh shakes the leaves overhead
Dryadic dragons drying their hair
In air thick as tarmac, boiling
A ballroom shimmying mirages.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Wednesday Morning Warm-up

The construction continues across the road and I drink my coffee and watch. Yesterday's crane is NOT in the flyway for the IAH approach. Just saw a plane come in higher than the top of the crane. So. Good. There are at least two concrete sides up this morning...I can see the dirt ramp in the back of the site where they can drive closer to the upper edges of the concrete forms. Not sure what it's for. There are five trucks in the parking lot. The crane is still there. It looks like the building interior will stretch most of the way to the Popeye's next door. Nothing in my head this morning. I need to work on something.

Listening to what sounds like "Chelsea" repeated over an over to an ache, a heartbeat that hurts with every thump and chord and watching the dude outside in the fisherman's cap and the long-sleeve, chambray shirt with the neon green turn-up cuffs check the meters facing the ATMs. He checks the dials, makes notes in pen on a clipboard, looks closely. The song continues to pulse overhead.

When I entered the coffee shop this morning a single phrase, "Where are you?" echoed in my head. I guess I'm thinking of the floods, blob-slow, rising around the city where I grew up but it seemed the kind of question you ask as soon as bad news comes through. "Where are you?" Are you near the epicenter? He checks the dials again and moves on. A sprinkler comes on, he walks around the landscaping and makes a few more notes. Everything is in balance or there are minor correctives. The phrase lurks, a chorus I know will be coming up, soon.

Breathe. Think about the news. Candidates repeat the danger that breathes in the darkness of the future. It's already humming and we catch a few verses in the speeches. Utopia rotted somewhere in the bend of the creek and we are trying to survive the dystopia. If it's real, if the images correlate. The orange of the construction equipment, the neon of the workers' apparel. Here is much that is dangerous in the becoming and we are, currently, much safer when we are afraid. Per the regulations.

And he keeps checking. Opens the pipes, observes the landscaping. And we've shifted to Adele, to a deeply 70's grove that feels like the edge of disaster.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Magpie 311/There Was a Flurry

image courtesy of Magpie Tales

There was a Flurry

There was a flurry; I heard the wings and turned:
A flock of ideas pass in the fall of light by the elevator door.
Mindy’s whisper and the muted ringing--handset phones
Remain in all of our cubicles, as we remain part of the assembly
The office still requires.

Now, I have to pick the tangled feathers from my hair,
Although I could twist them tighter,
Swirl them together,
Hang paper clips from the sharp shafts,
Press push pins into the soft skin of my ears.

Will you recognize me with office supplies pressed to my skin,
Coils of ink tracing the flock’s passage?

These are your whispers from lunch, and Keri’s pens
I borrowed last week, stabbed through the tangles,
Plastic and metal clatter as I nod,
Inscribe my sighs on the walls:
Carpet creeping up, like polyester mold,
To keep our screams quite as our phones.

Startled ideas, fleeing the beeps and pressure rising
Along the empty shafts ahead of those elevators,
Rising like a front along the corridor, beat my head blank.

Watch them go, indecipherable in the afternoon,
Hammering the sky through the windows,
As we cannot.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Magpie 310/Grapes

(image courtesy of Magpie Tales)


There comes a time, early, when toast and jelly are a sacrament,
Peanut butter and jelly, too; you are too young for wine
But know your prayers by evening and table, young enough
To see the morning in all its stages: bed to car to school.

Grape juice, too, reminds you of ties that bind, cold grape soda
Sacralizes summer on the cusp of the driveway, bare feet warm
Against the concrete stubble and bicycles circling the block,
You remember yours, blue and white, flying you home.

Now, you hope that those days, that belief, stain you well,
Far faster than purple dye on cotton; that once for all works
In life as well as prayer, because you haven’t tasted grape juice
Or flown with angels and mosquitos since you lived there.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Magpie 308/Vacation

It was the one image I couldn’t slice into the collages. Aunt Louise put in it the pile, so she didn’t object to its going under the knife, but this woman? Maybe just a little older than me, kissing a message into the future? She’s not my Grandma the Great, and I can’t. Even if I was part of the future she’s kissing.

I stick a push pin in one of the porch posts and hang the picture with a binder clip to the pin.

I make sure the tissue boxes aren’t packed. I bring all of them to the porch and arrange them around the card tables Aunt Louise helped me set up. Dad flipped, but we manage to avoid the porch while we’re cleaning and you can’t just pack up a house all day and night. I work on the collages in between sorting and sleeping. We’re close enough to watch Houston come awake from the porch and we manage to eat and watch the lights without damaging the paper. Neither of us want to use the kitchen.

These collages would be the last pieces I could do in her house, standing on the back porch watching the wisteria bud out in the warm Houston spring. Aunt Louise has a single chair she brought out from the kitchen and she sits nearby, watching the yard while I slice old fliers, photos, and magazine pages onto five large sheets of paper I stole from the art room the last day of school. I’d planned to turn them into posters of my best friends, since none of us are going to the same college in the fall.

Usually, Louise and I come out in the afternoon, when the light mimics that of the photo. I don’t know where it was taken—somewhere in Europe?—Grandma-the-Great’s kissing the letter she’s about to mail and someone snapped a picture with the sun gilding the entire street, casting her eyes into shadow. She could be happy or hopeful or sad; Grandma the Great never talked about those trips with me. Even Aunt Louise avoids talking about them. Louise used to work for a gallery in the city and liked to ramble around all weekend, just letting Houston ‘settle into her bones’ while it floated above the gumbo soil. She told me she used to imagine herself one of those elegant cow birds, just stalking through the grass, looking for the best frogs. She knew the best places to eat at the bases of the skyscrapers and in the remnants of the underground mall and she makes sure we have good takeout for packing.

When Grandma the Great died just before high school graduation, my dad invited Aunt Louise to come live with us out in the burbs. He let us pack up the house—it was his job, really, but maybe it was more our lives—so we went through the rooms and the memories with Clorox and trashbags and two suitcases for Aunt Louise.

We’re more or less done with the house and I’m starting to think this is the last afternoon I’ll have with these collages. They look flat to me, like ruined vacation shots. It’s like I’m putting all my summers in a box like a dead parakeet. Aunt Louise glances across the yard, her eyes flicking to the picture hanging up and then to my collages. “I’m going to pretend she’s letting us know it was a beautiful day,” she says.

“I’m going to pretend that she’s telling us that it’s a great vacation and we should enjoy every bit of it.” I shuffle the scraps to one side, setting them under a rock I found a few days ago in the garden, and let myself relax against the house. Houston glimmers in the dusk.

Lunatic Surface

De-memed memes, given forward by headless anatomies, by wordless balloons.
Everyday empty heroism--her words, for those pieces.

Maybe they meant what congealed, years later, from summers
Spent in her house on the edge of the city; green cracking sidewalks
That smelled of candy-sweet mimosa and exhaust, like cola's acid sugar.

Your collages stumble through old arguments
Pinned like venomous butterflies to those years
In the house that took you three days to clean out,
Five canvasses to explain.

He hoped your inspiration into being
Sometime in the last century, in a city studio
Standing on a table, condiment bottles of paint
Slinging the past forward until it fractured,
Splinters lodging in your fingers and memory;
You, who never read a comic or quarreled naked
Except in the ordinary, underneath way.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Magpie 307: I Asked for Music

image courtesy of Magpie Tales

I asked for tubes of lipstick, pots of eye shadows, boxes of faces;
He gave me old tubes of oil paints,
Blue gas flames blooming orange
Spitting through rain in an umber grey forest,
Fat black rabbits bending from horsehair.

I asked for lace gloves and bubble skirts, for chandeliers for my ears;
He gave me a tent and a SpoonForkKnife,
A bed that smelled of attic and plastic,
A room that unzipped on Texas clay
Where the javelinas rooted by the water.

I asked for hot dreams, hazy streets; for music like Mezcal;
He gave me sunny roads melting
Into lakes, roads dreaming of asphalt
Angels rising toward neon spires
Until evening flashed viridian.

I paint my own bare skin but can't find the lovely ruins
Of old dreams, only the shadows of trails
Hiked and streams waded, bare
Like the walls of the room,
After everything was packed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Magpie 306 - Soft

(image courtesy of Magpie Tales)

My hand strokes the deep blue wall, soft as fleece,
Blue as the curls of the woman five pews up.

Is He counting my prayers or my sins?
My hopes or my days, my fears or my pride?

Religion was a good seed in season,
But it broke like the light against the brick.

But He's soft in Spencer's sight,
Fat and soft as Santa, not burning in holiness.

I remember the touch of the back wall,
Glass walls and warm mornings, soft as faith.

His house, but not Him.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Magpie 304 -- City Shadows

Photo courtesy Magpie Tales

We built them tall, for the shadows. Oh, we knew, from the time we spent beneath ones we didn't design, that shadows were swarming, just a breath away. Too many, too full. So we built these, thinking we were building places for us, believing these interiors are for our needs and the exterior for some lordship of artistry. But we were building our own massive shadows, our own obelisks that marked the boundaries of our space and our time.

And we did gain those spaces, banishing all we could. Even light had to be bound within our shadows. When the shadow of the building falls across me as the afternoon advances, I relax. It points toward the street, to the space that moves like water but is metal and tar and crushed gravel, dangerous but governable. I have yet to go down that street, have yet to feel the edges of those buildings, to check for the kind of rot I've felt along the streets behind me, however massive their buildings might be.

This kind of rot grows from sunlight, from water and light and the weakness of concrete. Sunlight calls down to the soil beneath the sidewalks.

I follow the generous shadow, promising myself I won't weaken these edges any further. Not this time. Not here.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Magpie #303: Irina's Books Has Closed

image courtesy of Magpie Tales

Irina's Books Has Closed

Parking lot's empty, the heroes flown to the city, fairy tales vanished anon.

Before the rain, angels roost in the eaves; clouds wick the sun behind me.

My soul's ragged with bluster, with braggarts; their words follow me round:

We locked the door; your sign's already fading; who remembers to read?

Dust devils are dancing (I hear their hooves scrape) all up and down the street.

No nib parries this sword at my throat, evening's ink is already spilled--

Dissolving Irina's, last princess, last print--it whirls away with the wind.

So this week's poem came out of a trip my husband & I took this weekend, searching for a used bookstore we had discovered online that, as it turned out, was no longer in business. This involved dodging construction and trying to remain civil while debating directions while navigating unfamiliar (narrow) roads. If we'd been more familiar with the area, we might have just parked and hiked around, although it wouldn't have led us to a bookstore. There were several empty storefronts along the way and between the tension and the emptiness, the uncanny seemed to wait nearby.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Provisional Projection (Magpie #302)

Oh, you see the real skin; I hold it,
Flesh of my life, on silver and sparks.
Art is humanity on this tray, backwards
So you can sneak forward, silent, to her.
I won't look.

But you will, eyes parsing treat from table
It becomes real when you swallow: tears, or
Words, or that disgust you suppress
Because all you can imagine, briefly,
Is unzipped.

image courtesy Magpie Tales

Friday, January 8, 2016

Leftovers/Flash Challenge

The following started as a Flash Fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig's blog. However...flash isn't really a good fit for me (and I'm not bloody enough for terribleminds), so this ended up more the draft of an idea than a story in itself. You can find the image that inspired this piece here. I'm hoping this will return in a longer form later. Cheers.


It’s a sweatshirt and leggings day and I’m advertising my college, even if I think I might be over a line in this little town. It’s not like we have a stake in Texas football and I wanted to be comfortable for the just over three hours I’d be spending on the freeway. I had to line up a summer job, so I was heading to my parent’s house near the coast. I’d sold my books back last semester for cash—gas money, I promised myself before I left campus—but I was hungry and needed to be out of the car that owned all my non-study hours.

I spent last semester selling dresses at a half-dead mall to cover insurance and gas and the blue-moon night out. Shit, we’re all broke after the holidays. Not Tammy—her family’s got a huge house in The Woodlands, that golf and jogging bubble just north of Houston—but the other three of us, two suitemates and my former high school frenemy who ended up sharing the end of the hall in Brannen House on the tiny campus of Clearspring College in the lovely vicinity of the Texas Hill Country.

The book cash had gone into my wallet and come out again for the “best-in-county” burger joint on the edge of this tourist drag. I was thinking about Tammy when I left the burger place. We thought she’d barely made it out alive, but Tammy was plotting to make it to the subdivision just two back from where her parents and younger siblings lived, where the “real money” lived. The antique store on the corner seemed like the kind of place she and her future husband would poke around on a bed-and-breakfast weekend in the quaint Texas hinterland. I opened the door as I imagined them ignoring each other among these leftovers.

The half-idol caught my sleeve as I browsed and when I grabbed for it, thinking of all the cash I did not have for breakage, I realized it was sturdier than I thought. It was a metal piece, a conglomeration of screws and scraps welded to resemble a squat figure holding something, maybe a guitar? It was creepy if you searched for eyes in the grease and dust where the face should be, but I liked it. And it was ten dollars. Ten dollars that I currently had in my wallet, in a single bill. So there, real money.

The older woman at the register set the figure down on the glass counter with a heavy thump. “Don’t remember where we got this,” she said, then nodded. “Part of that haul a couple years ago, girl brought in half her daddy’s shop and all these dishes. Villenueva’s Body Shop, see the sign there? Grew up seeing it hanging on that old brick building they tore down when they were building that new gas station.” She shook her head. “Bit of a late Christmas present?”

I nodded. There’s no explanation for ten dollars that has to vacate your wallet on a grey afternoon hours away from your childhood bedroom and having to explain to your parents’ friends yet again where Clearspring College is and why you picked it. The figure was too heavy for a sack, so I just carried it out to the car in the crook of my elbow. There must be iron in it for such a small thing to weigh so much.

Once I was back in the car, I couldn’t wait to get back on the freeway. I shuddered before I’d even shut the door. Fortunately, there was enough gas to get home without further delay. I put the statuette in the passenger seat, balanced between a sack of clothes and a novel I had to read that weekend.

It wasn’t until I was back on the freeway that it made sense. Buying that figure was like buying the shadow of the trees on the street where you grew up, back when it was new and precious. Who could sell that?

Then I saw the building out of the corner of my eye. A flash of bricks hidden in the oak and Chinese tallow by the roadside. I caught another glimpse reflected in a cattle pond fenced in on the pastureland to my right. Villenueva’s Body Shop. I smelled hot metal and oil. I turned up the a/c, but the smell grew stronger.

When I glanced up, I saw it my rearview mirror, neon sign gleaming in taillight red and headlight yellow. A hum shivered through the car and I wondered how long the faceless figure sat in the old building, who welded it, where the scavenged pieces had come from. Maybe the woman who sold it hadn’t been in the heart of the business, hadn’t seen the idle idol, hadn’t brushed it every evening before closing. I swiped my fingertips across an edge. The hum increased.

The ghostly building was closer to the freeway as fences gave way to grass and business districts, every single one marred by the façade of a decaying Villenueva’s Body Shop. Dark bricks crumbled away from McDonald’s play areas, smeared across insurance offices, and scraped against old buildings whose signs I couldn’t read. It was scraping the caliche driveways and cutting through the shoulder grass when I slammed my brakes and it was in front of me.

Cars swerved around me and I jerked toward the shoulder. I could almost see the building panting in front of me. I rolled down the window. Brick memories crouch beside the car and then climb in. They’re not mine, except that I bought them. I don’t wonder why they were sold. Instead, I put on an old CD, the one with mix of Grease and ZZTop, the one that hides my memories of high school and the reason I was holed up at Clearspring. It’s easier to be haunted by someone else’s past. I gave the figure another pat and then we headed home.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Footfalls and Satellites

image courtesy Magpie Tales

Leap the light, fly over suns
This puddle universe
May have rules that break heels;
Its dances for fins.


Leap through the new land's skin
Sharp heels cracking--
Dive into upturned eyes,
A jackknife angel.


Leap beyond the eternity
Buses won't wait
Nor friends remain patient,
Waiting in the rain.