Friday, April 26, 2013

Episode Three: "A Small Fiction," aka Gloria

Writing fiction allows grown-ups to have imaginary friends.

A pre-dawn revelation.  Maybe I'd been dreaming of a Popsicle and this was written on the stick.  We surely need and are entitled to all the harmless, free fun we can find, a category that before now might have been limited to reading library books or playing with art supplies I already own.  Then Sarah Saunders Ceramics showed us "smack round the face with a wet fish?"  From which came Gloria,  pastry, ocean currents, Noel Coward and, apparently, unspooling episodes. 

My two favorite serials were "Flash Gordon" and "Shadows Over Chinatown," probably neither of which was entirely suitable for a grade school child and I had crazy passion for both.  I somehow convinced kids to play Flash Gordon at recess, guess who directed and starred?  And my paper lantern obsession lingers still, with a scent memory of sandalwood joss sticks.  Dim the house lights, please.

A Small Fiction, part 3

What with the fish and all, Gloria's bills for laundry and dry cleaning, she swore, had given all three of the sturdy, rather scabby Walthers children smiles so straight and bright they could go into the movies.  Orthodontia, skiing vacations for all five of the Waltherses, hiring local help to run the cleaners and laundromat during the vacations and other luxuries the family enjoyed were certainly underwritten in part by Gloria.  Baking, sign making, aesthetics and keeping her wits about her occupied all of Gloria's waking hours.  Washing and ironing the shop's vintage tablecloths, linen napkins, towels, aprons, curtains, not to mention caring for her own spotless wardrobe had to be entrusted to other hands.  Getting a full measure of beauty sleep was another job only she could handle.

For the time being, Mr. Apotienne's courtship, if such it was, took place in the tea room during business hours.  He did not hang about under the climbing roses waiting to walk Gloria home or ask if he might call for her one evening.  He arrived each day, guided by some infallible inner knowing that told him when the shop was quiet, took a not-large corner table near the pastry case and, after placing his "for starters" order, retrieved the volume containing three of Coward's plays from a briefcase-sized pocket in his all-weather coat and began to read wherever he'd left off the day before.  He pitched his voice so that Gloria heard him perfectly, even with some clanking of china and cutlery.  The ordinary bustle of commerce had to flow on.  Had others been nearby, the could have listened - and been amused by the words and Mr. Apotienne's skill as a reader and interpreter - or could easily continue their own conversations undistracted.

She kept a growing, fluxing mental list of what she most enjoyed, admired or was made dizzy by at the hand and voice and other segments of Mr. Apotienne.  In no particular order - or a slightly prejudiced order - she counted that he assumed she had the refinement and humor that Mr. Coward required, he seemed not to have a fish phobia nor the sometimes observed distaste for any sea-borne smells.  His eyes were the blue of chambray that had seen years in the sun and many washings.  He did not appear to be overly hairy.  She wondered if he had tattoos.  If his voice had been a disembodied thing, a box that sat on the table or a sound piped in over a loudspeaker, she had to admit she might have been every bit as enthralled.  Smitten was too frail a word.  If once there had been benevolent gods - powerful yet kind - and if they once spoke to mortals, that was the voice.  For their divine qualities, her pastry, his voice, they were handsomely matched.  Perhaps benevolent gods still played behind the scenes, having their fun, testing the waters.  Gloria's heart, she found, could beat so fast she thought she'd developed a panic disorder.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Small Fiction continues

A Flinty Resolve.  That wouldn’t have been a bad name for Gloria’s tea shoppe. It was her, at least one aspect.  Gloria was, as I suppose we all hope to be, greater than the sum of her parts.  And her parts were many.

A childhood friend of Gloria’s once told that her mother had learned to make baklava from their neighbor, Mrs. Dalgarian.  The test, said Mrs. D., was to have dough thin enough to read the newspaper through and would determine the perfection by doing just that.  The friend’s mother being the contrarian that she was, chose to use the Sunday funnies rather than a page of news articles.  Mrs. D. assumed it was a cultural thing, this insistence on doing it some other way than the teacher said, not knowing that her pupil would have taken another path no matter what the instructions.  She did, however, the friend reported,  learn to make very acceptably authentic-tasting baklava, a skill that served her well the rest of her life.  Gloria was like that, a perfectionist about her pastry but how could she be anything else?  In the first place, it was one of her passions and, secondly, it had a pleasing margin of profit as a shop specialty.  The shortbread crust on the tarts, layers and layers of puff pastry on the creme horns and turnovers and her bar cookies?  Nearly scandal-producing in their rich variations.  The most abstemious patron would think little or nothing of ordering a “wee” plate of six different varieties, then using a moistened fingertip to press up the crumbs.  There was more licking going on at Gloria’s than most people would be comfortable knowing about.

Raspberry Rhapsody, Toffee-Coffee Sandwich, Don’t Blink Meringue-topped Cherry Squares, Floodgates Brown Sugar Fudge Insinuations.  The names went on and on, some downright bizarre, some usefully descriptive, all well-known to and unashamedly asked for by regulars.  If one of the regular customers tried to point to a treat by way of ordering, rather than saying the full and sometimes silly name out loud, Gloria feigned a hearing problem.  She beamed with approval when a first-timer read the name from the card at the end of the tray, standing there smartly in its careful Copperplate hand (Gloria’s, of course) as though introducing thrice-removed royalty at the Viscount’s ball.  When she heard them spoken as she intended, Gloria could taste not only the finished treat as it rested on the bisque-colored enamel tray; she could taste each ingredient as it had been added to the mix.  Her palate was a genius at compartmentalization.

Billington’s Cove, the finely arched eyebrow of pebbly shore that lay just south of Greater West Elba,  faced slightly more south than west and thus was graced with warmer currents which often appeared as gemstone bright  aqua ribbons in the clear green water.  Those more tropical eddies delivered the fish bonanza which meant money in the bank for Cove-ites going back six or more generations.  It was not considered an “industry,” it had not been modernized with processing plants and the like.  It was catch:sell.  Catch:cook.  Catch:share.  Fish were currency in the Cove and surrounding communities.  Fish could be traded - and had been - for just about anything.  A fish-based economy could lead to taking them up, one at a time, as a means of self-defense or pungent aggression.  Gloria permitted time to study herself in the gold-leaf-framed ornamental mirror that reflected head and torso and smile as she chose or recalled a finned and meaty fellow who accentuated the pinkish-red of her abundant hair or contrasted handsomely with the hue of her frock.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sarah Saunders Ceramics and a little made-up story

Both pieces are original art by Sarah Saunders Ceramics.
One of the many delightful Facebook discoveries of artists who would likely not have been found any other way.  Should you wish to know a bit more about Sarah Saunders, here is another link.  Her figures tell me stories, just the way that bird seems to be sharing a nuzzle or whispered secret with the bemused woman wearing the emphatic heart pin.

A Small Fiction

Gloria's unique qualities were well known, not often mentioned.  There were rumors that there had once been a Mister Gloria, a fisherman by calling, who had long ago worn out his welcome and her affection.  They say that his last day in her home and life concluded when she swung at him with a large flounder, an unmistakable gesture of dismissal.  Everyone in town who knew him agreed, he had it coming.

The fish event, as locals called it, was never repeated as far as anyone knew, yet it left Gloria eyed with warily when anyone began to act up in her presence.  They rarely did.

In the rough-and-tumble seaside village where she grew up and still lived, Gloria stood apart from her fellows in ever so many ways, most noticeably her success at running a tea shoppe of uncommon refinement and loveliness.  Even to those whose worlds were broader than the narrow, rocky strip that comprised Billington's Cove, it was obvious that Gloria might be considered quite a catch among the local hard-working, outdoor types.  She would have none of it.  She never raised her voice, which was especially melodic - an obvious part of her many charms - and did not openly, irrevocably turn away any of the smitten multitudes.  She simply occupied her own realm of tea cozies, rare chintz-patterned china cups and saucers, flakey and butter-filled pastry, hungry tourists and townsfolk with what might be called no-nonsense grace.  There was no room on the clock or calendar for any silly mooning and swooning.

All that was before Mr. Apotienne began to read Noel Coward to her as she puttered and he sipped, there in the cottage dotted with climbing roses - they grow so well by the sea - the atmosphere seasoned with fragrant lemons for the tarts and an occasional whiff from the fishing fleet. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"...they are leaning out for love..."

Because I reach a state of overwhelm so quickly, I avoided news coverage of the Boston bombings, seeing if I could find my way to grief and be led by that.  I did not look much at Facebook, unless there was an image of beauty, for loveliness is balm to my tattered spirit.

I did stop by the blog, Premium T, for I had not visited there in too long.  It was an experience of being recalled to one's senses, one's better angels.  Please go and read what Therese found her way to in an uncertain week on an uncertain planet.  If we are even half-way present, the answer is always love.  The question is irrelevant.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Martin Espada for National Poetry Month

Welcome the the final third of National Poetry Month. This year's poster from the Academy of American Poets celebrates two of my wonders/joys: correspondence and poetry.

A friend's gift book, discovered through hearing an interview on NPR, introduced me to Martin Espada, whose collection, The Trouble Ball, won the 2012 Milt Kessler Award and a 2012 International Latino Book Award.  Treat yourself to something nice.  It is a holiday month and you deserve it regardless.

  for Sam Hamill

Let the blasphemy be spoken: poetry can save us,
not the way a fisherman pulls the drowning swimmer
into his boat, nor the way Jesus, between screams,
promised life everlasting to the thief crucified beside him
on the hill, but salvation nevertheless.

Somewhere a convict sobs into a book of poems
from the prison library, and I know why
his hands are careful not to break the brittle pages.

Martin Espada

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Late to the parties for Poem in Your Pocket Day, but not TOO late

I am behind where I want to be, where I thought I would be and this is as good as it will get.  Today, April 18, is Poem in Your Pocket Day, part of National Poetry month.  Here is the link for a more full view of what I will post below - my understanding of the blogger template, well, I have none, so things that need to be wide show up narrow.

Do not, please. be discouraged by possibly missing The Day, for all that is advocated for the 18th will be true and good on the 19th, 20th and so on, except perhaps public events.  The library in Cambria, CA, is observing everything poetry all month long, as reported by librarian Erin Perry.  Kudos.

Calling All Pocketeers!

Tomorrow is Poem in Your Pocket Day. At this year's annual event, millions of people throughout the United States will carry poems in their pockets and share them with others. Make sure you're ready!

1) Pick your poem
Find the perfect pocket poem for tomorrow's celebration by exploring the collection of downloadable poem PDFs on
2) Encourage friends to participate
Help your friends find their own pocket poems and share your experiences from past Pocket Days. On Twitter, help spread the word about Pocket Day by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

3) Discover Pocket Day events from coast to coast

The National Poetry Calendar on has listings of Pocket Day events from California to North Carolina.
Get inspired!

Here are some examples of creative ways to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day from participants throughout the United States.

Each year on Poem in Your Pocket Day, the town of Charlottesville, VA unites in a day-long celebration of poetry spear-headed by Jefferson-Madison Regional Library. 

Abrams Publishing Offices, NYC
Shoppers at Mrs. Dalloway's Literary & Garden Arts Bookstore in Berkeley, CA can pick up pocket poems by Bay Area poets.
At ABRAMS Publishing in New York City, staff have plastered poems throughout their offices. 
Falcon Heights Elementary School students
Businesses in Ferndale, WA, such as McKay's Variety, Good Burger, Barb's Pies and Pastries, Find Your Fashion, Kula Yoga, and Gentle Acupuncture will offer a discount to shoppers that share pocket poems.
Students at an elementary school in Falcon Heights, MN have celebrated by making their own poem-filled pockets, writing poems in chalk outside the school, and posting hidden poems. 
April 17, 2013
From our Sponsors:

Special thanks to 
the partners and sponsors who make National Poetry Month possible:
American Booksellers 

n Library Association
National Council of Teachers of English 
National Endowment 
for the Arts 
Thanks for being a part of the Academy of American Poets community. To learn about our other programs, including the annual Poets Forum, visit Poem in Your Pocket video courtesy of Wendy Saz, Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, and Poem in Your Pocket student photo © by Nan Knutsen, Falcon Heights Elementary School.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Willy DeVille and a storybook story

In sifting through some of the many piles and pockets that construct the outer planets of a life, I found a mix tape (actual cassette) made by my former and late husband, who was precise and frequently consumed with making such tapes.  At an earlier time I found one of his old reporter's notebooks, page after page with each song timed to the second, to fit them together with as little blank air as possible.  This cassette was called "Cowboys, New Moons and Lost Loves."  Which has nothing, on first glance, to do with Willy DeVille, other than in the wider view, where it is all about riding fences, waiting for celestial shifts, perhaps regret and believing in our dreams.   I first heard him as Mink DeVille, part of the origins of punk and a house band at New York's CBGB, which is a terrible oversimplification of a textured and enduring musical career.

William Goldman's THE PRINCESS BRIDE, a book to inspire any would-be fantasy writer with its characters, humor and pure fairy tale exaggeration, became an equally memorable movie.  Mr. DeVille and Mark Knopfler performed the theme song.  A storybook story, which could also be said of the themes from "Across the Borderline," composed by Ry Cooder from the soundtrack of THE BORDER, sung in the film by Freddie Fender.  Cooder and Fender, stories for another day.  If you visit Willy DeVille on YouTube, you will also find his version of a song from my teen years, "You'd Better Move On."  On that jukebox selection as well as those shown here, you can see he was not one to phone it in.  Watching and listening to him, I wonder if in my slow fashion, it is also possible to be at the same time flat out.  As they remind us in 12-step programs, half measures availed us nothing.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ben Okri

“We can redream this world and make the dream come real. Human beings are gods hidden from themselves. ”
Ben Okri, The Famished Road 

For today, this is enough.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"...taking black spray paint to your third eye."

This will be the song of the day,  the choice possibly inspired by bleed-throughs from other states of consciousness, other knowing.

“I believe in intuitions and inspirations...I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am.”
Albert Einstein

One day, one moment, is not like another.  Each arrives with an agenda and secrets.  If we are caught up in drama, the whisperings are too soft for us to hear.  Keeping to the bright side of the road takes fancy stepping, a choreography that I wasn't taught or, if I was, I unlearned.

I have, however, learned to notice the moments, the instants when there is a shift.  I think of Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man," turning in his sleep, the images on his skin coming to life, telling their stories.  It feels to me that we are being led further and further from nuance, subtleties, the oblique, and that our own turnings go unnoticed.  Their power to direct the flow of our lives is diminished by the bludgeoning effects of what passes for information.  Comedian Bill Hicks said, "Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye."

I mention this because last night I went to bed in a state of deep fatigue.  When I am that tired, I have trouble remembering it isn't always like this, the good times are not all gone.  This morning, weariness decreased,  I was able to feel the stirrings almost too faint to be identified.  We never know when the wind will change.  All we are asked to do is know that it will. 

Keep coming back.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sarah Lugg

Not that long ago, in World War II baby years, an artist named Sarah Lugg dominated the imaginations of aspiring collage makers and savers of small, meaningful and found objects.  Her work was shown from the cover of Victoria magazine to the card racks of better stationery stores.  There were books, calendars (more than one, I think), articles, prints.  Now, in the age of way too much information, her whereabouts seem to be unknown. 

Probably best known for her collaged shipping tags, a look at sample work demonstrates the influence she had on today's journalers and mixed media artists as found in the pages of multiple Stampington Publications.

I thought of Sarah's art the other day, had to call a friend to help me remember her name (I being the World War II baby) and hoped she was even now pursuing her passion with vigor, gusto.  It seems not, but her books can still be found at Amazon and likely other places.

Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your beauty and vision with us and for any and all forms in which your art may still be appreciated.