Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Replacement On My Mind

Me on the left, on my sister Ann's First Communion (circa 1967)


Brushing out our daughter’s brown
silken hair before the mirror
I see the grey gleaming on my head,
the silver-haired servant behind her. Why is it
just as we begin to go
they begin to arrive, the fold in my neck
clarifying as the fine bones of her
hips sharpen? As my skin shows
its dry pitting, she opens like a moist
precise flower on the tip of a cactus;
as my last chances to bear a child
are falling through my body, the duds among them,
her full purse of eggs, round and
firm as hard-boiled yolks, is about
to snap its clasp. I brush her tangled
fragrant hair at bedtime. It’s an old
story—the oldest we have on our planet—
the story of replacement.

--Sharon Olds

Mom in March.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Poetry Monday: C. Dale Young

I recently came across C. Dale Young's blog and recognized his name, so I hunted down some of his poetry and was blown away. C. Dale has graciously agreed to be featured on today's Monday Poetry.

He's a physican and a poet, a time-honored combination when you consider Rafael Campo and William Carlos Williams. (An aside: My mom is an R.N. and a writer.)

Exclusive to my blog only!! C. Dale discusses each of the two poems featured below.

C. Dale Young (blog here, website here) practices medicine full-time, edits poetry for New England Review, and teaches in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. He is the author of The Day Underneath the Day (Northwestern 2001) and The Second Person, just published this spring by Four Way Books.

Poem #1: "Clean"
C. Dale says: "I wrote 'Clean' after a friend of mine told me I never write about tenderness. I was determined to write a poem that held, at its core, tenderness. In the end, this is closest I have come.

Clean (by C. Dale Young, first appeared in Ploughshares)

Already, his abdomen was sculpted, and already
the thin trail descending from beneath his belly button.
Even now it is difficult to explain it. I was, after all,
only 7; I didn’t even know what Turkish meant.

In the dead of winter, which only meant
certain flowers had ceased blooming on the island,
we had driven up into the mountains
to “take the waters,” as our parents put it.

Our parents’ instructions were simple: they would be
in one room, our sisters in another, my brother
and I in yet another. Down the dark hallways
as dark as tunnels, down through the strong smell

of minerals and seawater, the attendants led us
to our rooms. What was that smell? Sulfur?
Aluminum? There was the smell of salt, but it
was not the salt of the earth, not the sea itself.

The old man told us not to sit in the water for more
than fifteen minutes at a time, to drink lots of cold water,
to scrub the salts into our skin, to take care of each other.
And then, he left us. We took off our clothes, did it

without thinking. “You get in first,” is all he said, his voice
sounding more like my father’s, his voice having changed
almost a year ago. His body had changed, too.
Sitting in the pool, my thoughts began to swim

in the vapors, the steam. I felt nauseated.
I wanted not to look at him. I wanted to look at the tile:
blue and blue-white with the depiction of a terrible vine
twisting and creeping around the tops of the walls.

When he got out and lay on the tile next to the pool,
his abdomen was already sculpted, and the thin trail . . .
He knew I watched him, and he loved the admiration.
When I finally got out, my head dizzy, my heart racing

from the heat, I lay myself down next to him. He scrubbed
my back with a rough sponge, pulled me against his chest
as he scrubbed behind my ears and under my arms. There,
in the steam, I was cleaner than I would ever be again.
* * *

Poem #2: "Sepsis"
C. Dale says: "'Sepsis' is an amalgamation of several experiences I had as medical Intern. I am haunted by many experiences I have had as a physician. Sometimes, the haunting spills over into my poems. As much as I love my profession and cannot imagine myself not practicing Medicine, it has damaged me in ways I can never explain. I am not even sure I can explain it to myself."

Sepsis (by C. Dale Young, first appeared in the
Virginia Quarterly Review)

The fog has yet to lift, God, and still the bustle
of buses and garbage trucks. God, I have coveted
sleep. I have wished to find an empty bed

in the hospital while on call. I have placed
my bodily needs first, left nurses to do
what I should have done. And so, the antibiotics

sat on the counter. They sat on the counter
under incandescent lights. No needle was placed
in the woman’s arm. No IV was started. It sat there

on the counter waiting. I have coveted sleep, God,
and the toxins I studied in Bacteriology took hold
of Your servant. When the blood flowered

beneath her skin, I shocked her, placed the paddles
on her chest, her dying body convulsing each time.
The antibiotics sat on the counter, and shame

colored my face, the blood pooling in my cheeks
like heat. And outside, the stars continued falling
into place. And the owl kept talking without listening.

And the wind kept sweeping the streets clean.
And the heart in my chest stayed silent.
How could I have known that I would never forget,

that early some mornings, in the waking time,
the fog still filling the avenues, that the image
of her body clothed in sweat would find me?

I have disobeyed my Oath. I have caused harm.
I have failed the preacher from the Baptist Church.
Dear God, how does a sinner outlast the sin?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My First Meme for YouYou

What the hell is a meme?

Is it anything like a screaming meme?

I think I figured it out, though. I was tagged by Sam of Ten Thousand Things. (Remember when being tagged meant you got slapped on the arm by your friend who had orange popsicle remnants and dust streaked across her face as she chased you down the summer hot asphalt of your neighborhood?)

Anyway, cyber-tagged I was, for a meme (still don't know what it meansmeans) to come up with 10 quotes from 10 different writers that say something about my ars poetica philosophy.

Here's what I came up with:

"Poetry is loving the names of things." (Gertrude Stein)

"I have it set so all flattery and criticism go down the same drain, and I am quite free." (Georgia O'Keefe)

"There is a beauty in the world, though it's harsher than we expect it to be." (Michael Cunningham)

"The thinking mind is best controlled by the imagination." (Carson McCullers)

Artists "love what is raw and degratded as much as what is seemingly fine . . . [They are] awed by creation and cannot let a single aspect of sensuous experience go unadmired." (James Agee)

"Craft is also spiritual." (Sharon Dubiago)

"The novel cannot submit to authority." [True for the poem too.] (Julian Gough)

"Out of our conflicts with others we make rhetoric. Out of our conflicts with ourselves, we make poetry." (Yeats)

"The most important things in our intimate lives can't be discussed with strangers, except in books." (Edmund White)

"Talent is a long patience." (Flaubert)

"End with an image and don't explain." (Stanley Kunitz)

Now, being the lightening-quick-learning cyber-riffic gal that I am, I tag:
Dustin, Strega, Ellen, Arlene, and Talia.

(not Collin because he already did it)
(not Max cuz he already gave me some skin today)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

At Mom's

Mom was released from the hosptial today. After hours of waiting with her in her room for the bureaucratic bowels to move, we finally got the shit out of there (like the way I'm runing with that metaphor?), only to face constipated Memorial Day weekend traffic all the way from the Bay Area to the Sierra Nevada Foothills.

After stops at two pharmacies (a bureaucratic mix-up; yay bureacracies!) to pick up her meds, we finally straggled into Mom's house at 6:30 p.m.

It's strange to say Mom's house, not Mom & Dad's house. The minute we walked in I was whomped by Dad's absence and presence. How can I wrap my mind around the fact that he's never coming back?

When she got into bed tonight, she had tears in her eyes as she thanked me for bringing her home. I'm just hoping that the systems my sisters and I are setting into place (everything from stair railings to home-health care to online bill pay) will be enough to allow her to live independently for as long as possible.

She spent so many years taking care of my ill father that she deserves a full life of her own.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

7Up, Ellen, Surprise Money, Sushi and Soulmates

Usually this time of year, summer is beaming down its promise on me. The promise of so much time to write and to follow my rhythms. Not this year, though. Everything feels askew, with my father gone two months and my mom suffering in the hospital. Today I brought her 7-Up and slip-on shoes and magazines. When I walked in the door she said, "It's sure good to see you." (Funny, she never said that when I was a teenager!)

We walked together up and down the hallways, her holding onto her IV pole for security. I know she's afraid of falling again. Who can blame her. We watched Ellen together. Ellen makes her laugh. Ellen, I love you for that.

When I got home, I had a surprise email from the Bellevue Literary Review telling me they received a grant and so are paying all the contributors to the Spring Issue a retroactive $100 stipend. I feel like I put on an old jacket and discovered cash in the pocket.

I also heard from my friend Janelle who's been at Cannes (because) -- and she said it's a magical place. She's already scheming of ways to move there.

Annie whisked me off to sushi. California Rolls and Sapporo are great comfort food.

I'm continuing to try to slip in research for my novel, reading Jane Bowles' letters. I'm struck by how she and Paul were married for many years but didn't live together much and had lots of (same-sex) relationships with others. And yet they were clearly very connected. Kind of like Auden and Chester Kallman. Chester, who was 14 years younger than Auden, broke Auden's heart by not being monogamous. But over the years they remained soulmates of a sort; Auden died at age 66, and Chester soon followed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Yesterday Was . . .

. . . 12 hours with my mom, getting her transferred from the care facility back into the hospital since she she's been having more health problems.

Today was fielding phone calls about her care and a transfer to another hospital since there's no room in the one she was taken to yesterday.

The day before yesterday was a glorious 22-mile bike ride with Annie, here,

along the Coyote Creek Trail. Hawks with wingspans like open-doored cars swooped over our heads, and we swerved around two magnificent rattlesnakes who were grabbing some rays on the trail.

In the midst of it all, I've been continuing research for my novel. I've mostly been reading about Auden's and Britten's creation of the operetta Paul Bunyan. In the lyrics, Paul Bunyan expresses the hope that Americans will be saved from the

Pressure Group that says I am the Constitution,
From those who say Patriotism and mean Persecution,
From entertainments neither true nor beautiful nor witty . . .
From the dirty-mindedness of a Watch Committee.

Auden witnessed the devastating rise of facism in Europe. And yet he was not a blind patriot for Democracy. He recognized that all systems have their pitfalls and need their critics.

Speaking of critics, GO JIMMY. And swallow any possible apologies. I don't know why it's considered such an anathema for one President to speak his truth about another. Patriotism serves to silence.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Poetry Monday: Joan McMillan

I met Joan in the MFA program at San Jose State. Every poem she brought to workshop took my breath away. That is why I selected her for Poetry Monday. Here is one of her poems which first appeared in the Blue Mesa Review:

The Doll

On Christmas, a few months after my sister's abortion,
my mother gave her a Madame Alexander doll
the size and weight of a newborn, wearing a gown and bonnet
of textured pink satin trimmed with Irish lace.

In my mother's mind, soaked like a spongecake with liquor,
everything had its replacement:
if a single plate from her Desert Rose dish set
dropped and shattered, the next day she bought another one
at the Franciscan Ware shop in Glendale,

so, after my sister came home from the doctor,
my mother drove to a toy store and purchased the doll.
It lay swaddled in tissue on the top shelf of her closet
next to her silver makeup case from the 1940's
gleaming in the fragrant dark.

I imagine how my mother smoked a cigarette
alone in the living room the night after Christmas,
all the lamps extinguished, the tree glowing with starry lights,
flicking her cigarette-ash into an ashtray and remembering
the moment she had been waiting for, when my sister
cut the silky white ribbons and lifted the doll from its box,
its glass eyes clicking open as it made a faint, mechanical cry.

* * * *

Joan McMillan received her MFA in Creative Writing from San Jose State University. Her work has appeared most recently in White Pelican Review and Oyez Review, and has also appeared in Poetry, Quarry West, Chattahoochee Review, ONTHEBUS, and elsewhere.

Sunday, Sunday

Yesterday Annie and I needed an escape, so we escaped to an escapist movie, The Valet : perfect escapist fare. Not very deep but very enjoyable. I loved the film's tenderness toward the two main characters.

A beautiful day here. Annie and I are off for a dog walk then a bike ride.

Check out this blog tomorrow for the Monday Poetry Feature, starring a surprise poet! You will love her, trust me.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Two Very Different Kinds of News

Mom News
I tried to tell Mom today that it might be better if she came to Annie's and my house for a week or two when she's released from the care facility. (She has fallen twice since my father died March 17 and has been in the hospital and care facility for rehab for weeks now.)

All she said to me over and over was, "I want to go home. I want to go home." It broke my heart. So...I'm taking her to her house next week. I'll stay with her as long as I need to, watching over her and setting up in-home care and other systems. It's hard to even think about all this is going to take when I'm still grieving my dad ... and still grappling with all the years he was ill ... and all the changes I'm seeing in my mom physcially, mentally and emotionally.

But I just have to keep reminding myself: this isn't about me. It's about helping my mom get her life in balance. She's 74. I'm only 44. I lost my dad. She lost her spouse of 49 years. I can regain my balance more easily.

Cannes News
I'm still eagerly waiting to hear from my friend Janelle who is in Cannes with her daughter, Dina Ciraulo, who was invited to show the trailer of her film in progress, Opal. Annie and I had the pleasure of watching a day of filming last summer up in Sausalito, one of the jewels of California.

The film is based on the mysterious real-life story of Opal Whiteley. (Read more about her here.)

I hope Janelle will have some juicy celebrity sightings to share. The celebrity I would want to meet most (call me a liberal nerd) is Michael Moore! I can't wait to see the new film he's screen at Cannes, Sicko.

Give em hell, Mike.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Getting Paid for Online Publishing

I love holding a book in my hands--and I'm not a fan of reading long things on the screen. But short things online are great.

It's interesting to see all the special-focus websites popping up that publish people's work and that pay.

For instance, Drumtable features memoir, encouraging you to "drum up your life stories." In fact, today Annie's piece is an "Editor's Pick" (check it out here). Writers aren't paid directly, but if your piece is chosen as an Editor's Pick you win $50-100 in prizes.

I recently became aware of weddingchickie, which features "advice and commentary for the savvy bride." They recently featured the piece I wrote about Annie and me getting married in San Francisco. I was paid $150.

If you know of any sites that pay or award prizes for creative writing, please enlighten us.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Follow-Up on the Reading of Zillions of Essays

Materialistic Object

The way I kept my sanity while reading about 100 handwritten student essays in one sitting today (for our departmental reading) was by

* drinking a ton of coffee,

* writing silly notes occasionally to Adrienne, my friend and Shakespeare scholar colleague (in other words, acting just like the off-task students that I have to remind to pay attention; I mean for god's sake, we are adults!), and

* jotting down lines from student essays that kept me awake. (By the way, each essay was on the same topic, namely materialism.)

Here are 4 of the best. You choose the winner:

a) "Technology is bad for people but good for society."

b) "Affluenza is the sickness in which a person over-shops."

c) "People are living off of the good things in life, such as television, the internet, and even makeup for women."

d) "In today's society, people are often pleasured by materialistic objects."

Line d) was the opening of the paper, and I eagerly read on, hoping the paper would be a unique take on sex toys, but alas, I was disappointed to read yet another tract on our overreliance on cars and computers.

February House

Did you know that W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee all lived together for a few years under the same roof?

Their fixer-up Brooklyn brownstone was "host to an explosion of creativity, an extraordinary experiment in communal living, and a nonstop yearlong party" as the book jacket of Sherill Tippins' February House reads.

Many of these people will make appearances in my new novel. I'm reading Tippins' book as part of my research. This is the best kind of research, where you lose yourself in great reading that evokes the complexities of people and their time.

Carson McCullers and Jane Bowles--both of whom were married to men but had passionate affairs with women--will figure prominently in my as yet unnamed novel. I'm discovering so many interconnections among the (mainly queer) literary figures of the era that I'm gloriously drenched in the chaos of discovery.

The more I read about Auden and his lover Chester Kalman, the more I think that perhaps I have two or three novels coming out of this research.

I wish I could say more, but I've got to run off to the university to take part in a departmental reading of student essays. It's an all-day affair of reading anonymous paper after paper, scoring them based on a 1-6 rubric. A weird tradition, a bit like self-flagellation. It requires a lot of caffeine to stay on task.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Legacy of Hate and Intolerance

Jerry Falwell died today.

In articles about him, I'm already finding such quotes as:

"Dr. Falwell was a giant of faith and a visionary leader. He has always been a man of great optimism and great faith." - Ron Godwin

"Dr. Falwell was a man of distinguished accomplishment who devoted his life to serving his faith and country." - John McCain

I think it's crucial we not forget that he spouted hate and intolerance. Below are some of his infamous statements. (Maybe he'll be reincarnated as a man who gets gay-bashed.)

"AIDS is God's punishment to gays."

"If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being."

"I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!"

"Grown men should not be having sex with prostitutes unless they are married to them."

"There is no separation of church and state. Modern US Supreme Courts have raped the Constitution and raped the Christian faith and raped the churches by misinterpreting what the Founders had in mind in the First Amendment to the Constitution."

"AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharoah's chariotters."

"Textbooks are Soviet propaganda."

"The whole (global warming) thing is created to destroy America's free enterprise system and our economic stability."

"(9/11 is the result of) throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools, the abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked and when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad...I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the thing in their face and say you helped this happen."

(Thanks Joe. My. God.)

Country By Country

My friend Candice has just started up a blog that will follow her European adventures.

I will be living vicariously through her as I visit the blog throughout the summer.

In her words, here's the motto for her trip:

"Be on the edge" That's where creativity is born, that's where you can breathe into the belly of the beast, that's where unexpected delights appear out of the blue. You never know what to expect, but you know deep down that living on the edge will be a hell of lot more interesting than watching the BBC in your hotel room or staying in a tour bus with all the other faux-travelers.

Monday, May 14, 2007

New Feature: Monday Poem

I'm going to post a poem every Monday. Some Mondays it will be a new or old poem by me. Other days, when I'm sick of myself, I will post a poem by someone else.

Today's featured poem I humbly submit from my collection, Like All We Love.


Without objects, the wind
can’t speak. A whispering
pine, a blue oak, something
with corners that won’t bend

an inch, like the concrete
corner store. What’s the wind
after all but a blend
of things, a space replete

with skin, a rest between
breaths or breasts. See that cleave
between branches where leaves
at rest decompose? Lean

into it, the blender
of line and arc. The wind
just might suddenly send
a message, might render

a note of some sort that
you can sing later. When
given time, spaces tend
toward each other, lean fat-

ly into the plenty
of matter. What’s unseen
in the coilings between,
we receive as bounty

or irritation that
nothing is unfilled. Dust
swaths the shelves, nonplussed
at the breeze of the fat

feather duster. There’s at
least a century of crust,
of film, membrane—at least
an epoch. Wind doesn’t

blow things away, just
adopts them briefly,
sets them down again
embroidered with warm ghosts.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Cover, Continued

Can you see this image on the cover of For the May Queen?

Or what about this one:
As I talked about here, here and here--oh, and here, too--Merge Press has asked if I'd like to have any input on the cover of my novel, so I've been searching high and low.

My friend Nancy has been playing around with the image I like best to try to make it more colorful, more noticeable.

I like this image because it's both playful and nuanced. It feels a little happy, a little sad--and a bunch quirky. In its original manifestation, the colors and placement were nothing eye-catching. Now, Nancy's magic has made it come alive.

I also love the image because the novel's narrator, Norma, is a redhead who does not have a "perfect" body. And because we can't see the face in the image, it allows us to imagine Norma for ourselves as we read. Finally, the flower evokes the "May" of the title--as well as girl/womanhood and sexuality.

I think it's got it all.

Do you?

Thursday, May 10, 2007


The doctors want my mom to stay in the rehabilitation facility for one more week so she can continue daily physical therapy. She seems okay with that, even though the food sucks. My sister and I have been bringing her deli sandwiches and steak dinners. I'm surprised how adaptive my mom is being. She seems okay with being there. Maybe she knows it's helping her.

Fortunately, the staff is great. And my mom has a nice garden view out of her window. She's also pleased with her roommate because my mom doesn't like idle chitchat, which her roomate's not capable of. And the roommates's hardly in the room anyway since she has dementia and sits in her wheelchair at the nurse's station most of the day so they can keep an eye on her. She tends to wander off when not watched.

And now I will wander off to a new topic: I teach my writing workshop out of my house tonight. I'm going to start with the following James Wright poem, one of my favorites:

A Blessing

by James Wright

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Dancing in the World

Today is the second-to-last meeting of one of my classes in which we've been talking about "People of the Middle East." I'm trying to encourage us all to think of those who have been painted as the "enemy" as really our sisters and brothers in humanity.

This video seems apropos (thanks Lorna Dee).

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Bird of Another Heaven

Here's the verdict: I sacrificed American Idol and went to Santa Cruz to see Jim Houston read from his new novel, Bird of Another Heaven. And I'm sure glad I did. The excerpts he read were compelling and beautifully written. The novel is an historical one that imagines the life of the last King of Hawaii and his love, Nani; it's told through the eyes of a present-day Bay Area radio talk show host as he discovers his familial connections to Nani.

I can't wait to sink into the novel, which I plan to do soon since the semester is winding down, and my stacks of papers to grade are dwindling.

After reading Collin's blog about tonight's Idol, sounds like I didn't miss much. I may even forego watching the tape my brother-in-law kindly taped for me.

Speaking of other people's blogs, Montgomery Maxton is no longer afraid of words and is therefore blowing people's minds. It's true. Check him out.

Monday, May 7, 2007

A Two-Parter

Today's a two-parter:

I have a conflict tomorrow night: American Idol or James D. Houston? Most respectable writers would never admit to such a conflict, but I've never been accused of being respectable.

Will I watch the 3 Divas battle it out with the beat-boxing white dude? Or will I listen to James Houston talk about his new novel, Bird of Another Heaven--a novel that I've been looking forward to even since Jim told me about it when he was a visting professor last year at the university where I teach? One aspect of the novel is the take-over of Hawaii by the U.S., and it's set partially in San Francisco. I'm intrigued, especially since my mom was born in S.F. and lived in Hawaii before it was a U.S. state. I want to get a signed copies for her and for me.

Am I willing to sacrifice my Idol addiction for my literary lust?

To complicate matters, I don't have a VCR or Tivo.

To complicate matters further, BARRY GIBB will be on Idol tomorrow. Oh. My. God. I spent too many hours wearing out the grooves in my Bee Gees albums to miss out on BARRY GIBB.

Stay tuned.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

These very short poems/sections from "Images" by Bert Meyers remind me of the power of brevity.

And like good poetry and art can do so well, they help me to see the world.


Bales of hay--cartons
of sunlight fading in a field.

. . .

Shadows rise like water,
white fences comb their hair.

. . .

Leaves everywhere--
shreds of a giant eraser;
an oak leaf
becoming an antique.

. . .

Outside, a snowfall's passed
and painted all the windowsills,
even the curb's gray putty.

. . .

Sunlight in a window--
a flower in a glass.

. . .

After the rain
a streetlight hangs
the shadow of trees
like laundry
on a wall.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Feels Good In Print

Hurray! Just received the Spring 2007 issue of the Bellevue Literary Review in which my story "The Encounter Complex" appears. BLR calls itself a "journal of humanity and human experience." The fiction, nonfiction and poetry they publish touches upon "relationships to the human body, illness, health and healing."

My piece is about a brilliant, eccentric young scientist studying cancer. Still a virgin, he falls for his beautiful neighbor who turns out to be much different than he'd imagined.

Friday, May 4, 2007

More: Would You Buy This Book?

I'm still trolling the internet for possible book images, as I discussed earlier today.

I just realized that the image of the woman with her head thrown back and the image of the legs in the grass could both be read as dead. Of course, that's ambiguous--and so maybe that makes the images more evocative. Still, the book is very lively--and ultimately life-affirming--so I'm thinking I might want an image that reflects that.

Here's are two more. Both I think are fun and quirky--and I also like how the flower theme evokes the "May Queen" of the title, For the May Queen. Thoughts?

Would You Buy a Book With This Cover?

As I wrote about here and here, I'm helping my publisher seek image ideas for my novel, For the May Queen (for a synopsis, go here). Here's another one I just found. I like it best, I think, so far because it's the most nuanced.

To me, this image says sexuality, girl/woman, May, darkness and light. I like the colors and the composition.

What think you?

Yes, I Will Take You

"Hey Mom, do you want to eat in the dining room?"
"No, there are a bunch of old people in there."

Words from my 74-year-old mom, who is now in a rehab facility for about a week or so for rest and physical therapy. She'll be released when she is less of a fall risk.

Who can blame her for not wanting to identify as an "old person." Up until my father died in March, she was going to the gym, writing articles and books, attending a weekly writing group, making dinner every night, tending to my father's varied and many needs, and being active in a variety of ways in the community.

After he died she had two successive falls, and suddenly she has lost her husband, her home, her health, her independence.

I'm whirling from it all. I know my sisters are. My mom? I can barely imagine.

Grief? Loss? What are the right words?

My friend Gabriele Rico sent me the perfect Ellen Bass poem, with the perfect words. I'd read it several times before in Mules of Love, and re-reading it re-reminds me that what my mom and my family are enduring right now is ... well ... the human condition.

Here's the poem:

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs.
When grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, how can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you,
I will love you, again.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Bisexual Lesbian

My story "Art Making" will be published in the forthcoming Best Bi Short Stories, and the editor asked me to write a little blurb about myself and my story. Here 'tis:

When I'm in the mood to use a label, I identify as a "bisexual lesbian." I've been mongamously partnered with my soulmate, Annie, for 14 years and hope to remain that way for years to come. However, before I met Annie, I had been only in relationships with men (including a five-year marriage). I don't want to deny that those relationships are part of who I am, and yet I feel very woman-focused. That's why "bisexual lesbian" works for me.

My story "Art Making" emerged around the time Annie and I decided not to have children. It was a decision we were happy with, although it signaled a life shift because we'd both tried in the past to get pregnant. This decision got me thinking about the drive to have children, as well as the intriguing tensions between suburban and bohemian life--particularly the ways in which these lifestyles affect and are affected by child-rearing and art-making.

In the story, I was also playing around with the instability of desire and identity. Michelle is seen in the world as a lesbian, but she lives out desire bisexually. I think that is true for most people: that our labels do not match the complexities of our identities and desires. As Foucault says, we are freer than we think.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Not a Typical Tuesday

I was at the hospital all day today with my mom. She has fallen twice in the five weeks since my father died. It's been a rough, rough time to say the least.

When I got home tonight, our neighbors invited us over for a glass of wine--and sent us home with a casserole dish full of the best pasta dish I've ever eaten. I'm filled with the buzz of good wine and gratitude for friends.

And more good stuff in the midst of it all: Merge Press has announced on their website that they're working on the release of my novel.

And as requested by Merge Press, I've still been seeking out suggestions for a good cover image for my novel, For the May Queen (as I wrote about here). Below is one that appeals to me--it's very different from the "album cover" feel of the other one I was considering--but I'd want to crop out the wine glass since it looks too swanky for a dorm novel.

Would you buy a novel with this image on the cover?