Sunday, 5 October 2008

Can you guess who this pancake is dedicated to...?

The world is flat. Flat, flat, FLAT. Flat as a pancake my friends.

And I am the butter that slides, melting, across the top, yellow-white into clear, softening everything it touches. Artery-coating. I am the syrup, spreading, soaking in, sweet and teeth-rotting, delicious and insulin spike-inducing. Waiting for that first knife cut. Flat and flabby-minded and waiting.

I am conservative. A simple dish found in most every town in the nation--in a restaurant or on your own breakfast table. I am all about Small Town Values. Don't ask me what those values are--I'm not sure I can tell you. I'm sure they involve pancakes, though. I'm too full of sugar to think clearly. But I am here to support you. Swallow me and I'll give you all the energy you need to keep going.

The world is a pancake, I tell you. Easy to pour. Heating up. I may be soft and fluffy on the inside, not much substance, but everyone knows the pancake. What's not to like? I am all you really need.

Never mind that the wheat that makes up my middle is imported from Mexico, where European agribusiness owners pay workers a pittance to work from morning's dark to dusk and there is no respite, just a long line of more waiting to take their place as lives dissolve--they are the water that makes me moist. Please ignore the fact that the syrup isn't maple but flavoured corn syrup, made from corn subsidized so well by the American Government and foisted so heavily onto the world market that farmers in Africa can't make a competitive profit and are forced to abandon the family farm and move away to the city, where it's crowded and hot and dangerous. And cousins and life-long friends are far away, some of them slowly starving, still clinging to the fields. I am here to sustain you--does it matter so much where I came from? Will you think these thoughts as you bite, anyway? Likely not.

You're not thinking any further than the plate. No, I know for a fact that you will enjoy this moment. I will fill your belly with a pleasant warmth and you will feel the comfort of home and love and all that is decent and right with the world. The flat world. Created by God. Don't worry--those books that say otherwise will be taken from the shelves soon. All you need is a cookbook. A pancake cookbook. What else could give you such a golden smile? I am all you need. I AM.

So embrace me! Let me change you with my comforting sameness. Let me be the food that you buy when you go to the grocery store, this week. Yes, I know I cost half again as much as last week, but I'm worth it, don't you think? Eating all of that other food out there can be dangerous--pesticides and additives and migrant workers. You don't need that in your life. In the lives of your children, born and unborn. All you need is me to nourish you.

Won't you vote for the pancake? I know you will. Because you love America. I know you'll support me. All the TRUE Americans support me. So enjoy your meal, America.

Oh, the bill? Don't worry. I'm expensive, but I'll make you a special deal, because you're a hard-working member of society. Don't worry about the high tax on that bill. I'll give you some money back.

Put it to good use, friend. Buy more pancakes.

Sunday, 28 September 2008


Nothing could pierce the iron balloon of your guilt
though love like water would rust your consumptive self-hatred
surround you, soak you, wear you down
lift up this burden on currents of compassion
and, taking your tears, carve its path to the sea
It would drown your fear in this great ocean
cover it with coral and anemones and pearl-bearing oysters
and the sea would reclaim it

I say all this, gentle as the night coming on
while the wind of your words, disbelieving,
scatters all reassurances; my tongue is torn away
and, standing at the eye wall of this tempest,
your salt on my hands for the first time,
I am bludgeoned into silence by the violence of these waves
With empty throat I reach to rise above them, redeemer
as you sink beneath the storm within

Friday, 19 September 2008

"The totality is present even in the broken pieces."

1989. The year I graduated high school. A few grey hairs and laugh wrinkles ago. How did time disappear? A question for the old, for those facing their mortality--and for me: Did I do enough with the time I've had so far?

These days, I stay up until an ungodly hour, staring at this screen, trying to avoid the fact that the present moment will be tomorrow soon. That there are countless things I haven't done, said, written, felt, thought. That my bed is calling my name. That the day is done and there's little else that can be squeezed out of it now. Morning brings more of the same routine, less and less time for what I want. I don't want it to come. Not yet! I'm not ready for you, day. Keep your low-angled light away from my window. Keep your early shadows away from my walls, creeping with languid fingers, making me ache in places your radiation cannot reach.

When I finally slide into the bed, softly, as though I'd only gotten up to use the bathroom, the sky is lightening. The children are stretching and squeaking. Tell them it's still the middle of the night, honey, and put them back in bed, would you?

The question comes back again at eleven, when I should be planning lunch. Did I do enough? I know I didn't. I know I can't possibly. I don't want to waste moments swept up like the crumbs left under the table...but...a book, Mommy, read this book, please? I can't put her off long, either. She is part of that doing. Part of the enough. Already her older sister is hardly home, anymore. And when she is, she's reading, enclosed in her magical world of words. I know that world. I've lived there, and I still visit when I can hide in the bathroom long enough with a book. But I miss her. She's still so young.

At night, I put the little one to bed first, curling next to her in her tiny toddler bed, snuggled up with a good book. Turn on sleepy music and lay on the floor, holding her hand through the railing until she's still and sighing softly. Take the booklight from big sister and lay next to her, exchanging soft Mommy kisses for an arm squeezed tight. Trying to stay awake with thoughts of incomplete power points, notes to prepare, script revisions, blog posts, overdue administrative paperwork. Emails and updates. My lover keeping company with the flatscreen, watching our favorite series. And, oh yeah, the household that peeks out from under papers and dust, wondering when I'll give it attention, too.

In front of the screen again, the album has ended. Start another. The solitare game lost. Start another. Just another fifteen minutes more, I promise myself. Michael drops a kiss on my head and shuffles off into the dark hallway. Game lost again, I hit replay. Now it's midnight. Eyes barely open. And words barely begun. Pulled down by the weight of exhausted sleeplessness. I don't want to go. Not yet.

Reluctant, I pull the earbuds out like pulling a bath plug. Shut down the game. Hibernate the computer. Resigned. Did I do enough? Not nearly. Honestly, I don't even feel like I really tried. I'm just too damned tired.

But the big picture is there. I can see where I was just months ago, how far I've painted this new road across the canvas, covering old paint with new, brighter images. I suppose that to see the changes I'll have to step back. Put the pointillist's painting in perspective and see the beauty of the full scene. Wide angle shot. All of the screen at once. And? Did I do enough?

Ah, my sweet loves. Yes, I did. I kiss their softly-tousled brown locks. All three of them. Sweaty with sleep, cheeks rounded, eyebrows raised in dreams. There will always be time for more words.

I nestle under the down comforter, cold feet as close to my dear as I dare. Asleep in minutes. To do it all again tomorrow.

Resolved? Not by a long shot. Resigned, for the moment. It won't last, I'm sure of that. Life rarely finds, and even more rarely maintains, an equilibrium. That, at least, I can count on. I saw it when I stepped back. Keep momentum and the road will keep unfolding. Long ahead and behind, yet constantly rolling toward the horizon and over the edge of Earth's curve. Check the map--I'll get me there, eventually.

I've done enough for today.

The dreams come. And I wake suddenly, startled. The next story! Head falling back. Eyes close. Asleep. And gone. The shadow of an idea relegated to the lost associations of slumber.

The next morning, I rise with an itch. Have I forgotten something? I sit in front of the computer where the words refuse to come.

And I start all over again.

[title quote by Aldous Huxley]

Monday, 15 September 2008


Too many times we’ve tasted the salt of this bitter ocean, faces of love that caused us pain The good are broken, we are useful, we are non-people, servants to the god of your depression You are creative in your destruction, my Shiva—I have followed you out of a blind love, bound by sex and violence and the promise of more and I wonder if you are ever going to deliver We are priestesses of the cult of lost personalities, in bondage, in darkness, give us faces, name us, hole-ness consumes us, creates us, unmakes us, leaving room for your desires and I want to tear your eyes out No, you may not dance with our demons, you cannot go there, you are unwelcome It is the place of no pain, no tears, no ecstasy, the ultimate nothing, you cannot touch us here, this is home For the bridges will never support the weight of an empty stare, so we can never leave Don’t take me! You have stolen every thing I have ever loved, telling me I asked for this, I have no rights within your rites of passage, as your knife is brought into the circle, I fear for my life so hard that it makes me afraid you will leave me and if I cannot disappear, I will die It has run the gamut of black and purple I am bruises and all humor is gone This repetition, this anger is but an outgrowth of our ecstatic joy twisted into a tiny speck of loss Oh no, my Shiva, I will not kill, I will not drown this darkened soul, No, not ever again for you….

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Doing What We're Meant To Do

I remember the feeling I had when I successfully made it through my first semester of teaching:"This is it! I've finally found my niche! God, this feels great!"

I'm getting that feeling again...

Writing is nothing new--I've been writing since I was a kid. But I always thought my first publication would be a novel. Maybe a chap book of poetry. Instead, it was a Physical Geography textbook. Public triumph, personal yawn. BFD. Not world-altering. Not even money-making, and I'm already working on the second edition. It didn't feed the soul or offer freedom of expression. A hurricane is a hurricane. There isn't much wiggle room there.

Tolstoy once wrote, "Every time you sit down to write, you should leave a piece of your flesh in the ink pot." Didn't really happen this time, Leo. There were stories scrabbling to get out, scratching and whining. Only there was no door.

And then I tried to write a screenplay.

It was like getting into a jacuzzi after a long workout. Add candles. Some anti-frantic music. My honey. (Let's save the champagne for the first sale, shall we?) Ahhhhh. Feel yourself melting? Me, too. No more thinking. Just float. Oops, sorry...too many bubbles. That's better. Just flow.

There is something so freeing about writing a screenplay. The experts say it's an "all show, no tell" medium. I don't have to spend five pages describing Edinburgh Castle at sunset as seen from The Craigs above Holyrood Palace and dive deep for metaphors to connect with my reader. That's what the camera's for. "EXT. EDINBURGH CASTLE - SUNSET" Done. Take a knee and pump an arm.

Now it's all about the relationships, the dialogue, brief cues to body motions or facial expressions. It's people first. I'm so frigging DOWN with that, right now.

So the first screenplay is about my experiences in Scotland. (Shocker, I know.) I can't believe how many stories I have to tell and how many different "characters" I met in the eight or so months I lived there. You know, like when you look into your storage space and can't believe how much CRAP you've accumulated and you have a garage sale and make a little money? It's like that. All the craziness, drama, and emotional CRAP, boxed up and laid on a page, out there for someone to buy.

I haven't missed a day of writing since I started working on this project. That tells me something. I am where I belong.

So I blow out the candles and sink down, watching the stars as the steam rises around me...oh, yeah...

Hell, why wait. Somebody pour the champagne.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

A Poem for the Unhappily Settled


The patterns of her life overlap, an old quilt,
each piece interwoven, thinning with age
This security blanket of survival carried since childhood
keeps her quiet, keeps her comforted
Full of so many holes, every winter seems the last she can bear,
every frost hardens her heart

Its stitches unravel, repaired with whatever comes to hand,
for sewing it anew takes so much time and trouble
New threads of perspective,
the scraps of experience reworked, soul-searching and patience
Curling into a fetal position, she stretches the shrinking blanket over cold ankles
and tries to sleep, shivering in the dark

Artnik--A Creative Revolution

Beatniks were travelers--sometimes on the road of life, sometimes only in their heads. Like the gummy, distorted artistic depictions of them in black shirts and berets, always they stretched themselves, trying to find new perspectives. Testing philosophies. Moving their minds forward. "Carpe diem!" a rallying cry.

Like the beatniks, music informs and enhances what I do, though the word "beat" has been changed to "art"--for it is within my many artistic endeavors that I stretch my own boundaries, always searching for the voice within. I may not be the first of the artnicks in practice or philosophy. But it is in that tradition that I begin this blog.

One voice among many, at a distinctive timbre, can sometimes be heard through the cacophony. Maybe you'll have to listen closely. Lean in, turn your head to the side, squint your eyes to block the confusion of combined sight and sound. Perhaps you can make out the words. And they speak to you, connect with some synapses already in place and reinforce the pathway. From a dirt track to a paved road. More connections. A four-lane urban street. Soon, a superhighway moves through your mind.

Maybe there are side roads you hadn't explored. Cross traffic that impededs your progress. Or stop lights that give you pause.

Maybe you flip a U-turn and go right back to where you were.

But if you spent any time exploring...and if you learned something new about yourself...if your mental map became clearer, more focused, more colorful...then I've done what I set out to do.

Join your voice with mine and sing, voices rising above the din. Enjoy the ride on this neuron. Or watch through the window as the rest of us cavort. However you choose to be a part of this creative revolution, I welcome you.