Bed Work

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment


I didn’t get outside today, but the light was lovely from my bed. I woke up tired, tried to nap after breakfast but was kept awake by Fitzroy batting my face and sucking on my hair. Then I imbibed more coffee and got to work, editing almost seamlessly, in the zone. The romance novel I’m working on is all sex and champagne, cashmere, Louboutins, pink marble, MoMA. Sonoma, Manhattan, Stockholm. My favorite parts are the descriptions of vintage kitty litter odor coming from a neighbor’s apartment, and the erotic dream where her boss rips her shirt off.

The light brightened and faded. Charles took checks to the bank, fed the cats. I ate leftover wild rice and Brussels sprouts, browsed Valentine’s chocolate online, wanting it now.

“Did anything come for me today?”
“Just the cat food. Are you expecting something?”
“No, but I want a present.”

I miss being nine, my body painless and nimble. Tobogganing in the back yard, making Valentines cards with construction paper, Elmer’s glue, little red heart stickers and doilies. The one for my mother was the masterpiece, of course, though as I remember it I always put too much stuff on, hearts upon hearts, a big mess of needy love.

I can’t make money and do my creative work at the same time. My imagination folds over and hides its face. Even letting it out this far to say hello to you all feels dangerous. One of my clients emailed, “You’re such a good writer! Why aren’t you doing your own stuff?”

The light today was like children singing. Like a crystal bowl of lemons, silver steak knives, and eight-year-olds singing in French.

Just found this poem by Cynthia Huntington. It brought back memories.

Shot Up in the Sexual Revolution: The True Adventures of Suzy Creamcheese

“So, why don’t you sleep with girls?”
“I’m not really attracted to girls.”
“Are you telling me you were really
attracted to every man you slept with?”
Conversation with a friend

After twenty I stopped counting,
not like my friend Beverly, who sewed
an embroidered satin star on her bell-bottoms
for every new guy she fucked.
She had them running down both legs
and around the billowing hem,
and was starting up the inseam
when the jeans gave out in the wash.

It was a boys’ game anyway, those years
of our extended homage to the penis:
the guitar playing the penis, drums saluting it,
cock rock, Molotov cocktail, the motorcycle
gripped between the thighs, and I went down,
we all went down, in the old cultural disaster
of idol worship—a thousand-year bender.
Only this time it was the adolescent member,
oiled and laved, thrust forward arcing,
thin with ache, all tight flesh poked upward,
claiming its own. How it came and went,
penetrating but never settling down,
and how often we were caused to admire it:
hairless sweet warrior, raider against the State.

But I have this sweet pink flower
here between my legs—I put my hand down and touch it,
still soft and wet, and many-folded, endlessly opening,
hiding, seeking, hidden and sought,
but never very much admired or even smiled on
in those years, never served much less sung to.
Not a garden then but a citadel,
a wall to be breached, a new land claimed,
but linger there? No, I would say
there was an overall lack of appreciation,

though breasts were well respected, slopping loose
under T-shirts like little animals,
and I would feel my nipples brush the cotton
with pleasure, see them regarded also with pleasure.
Still, sex then was a taking, like spoils of war, a victory
over all those straight fucks back home, marooned
in the dismal suburbs that birthed us squalling and red
and watched us flee in ungrateful cars down night highways.

And God knows it felt good those nights.
I was ready, it was ready, to open and answer the call.
And take me down and roll me over, yes, and give
it to me—but why all this riding away afterward?

Where was everyone going
and why didn’t I get to ride along? Who knew at first
nothing had changed, just wanting the thrust and tug
and slam up against the headboard, I should say so,
but left still wanting more, wanting to leap
out of centuries’ shame and be something new,
not this old consolation of women for the powerless,
some kind of cosmic door prize awarded
just for showing up with a dick,
some proof to themselves these boys were men.

“You’re good,” he said. Hell, I wasn’t taking a typing test,
I was fighting to live in a dying world.
I was throwing myself away, an offering to wildest space,
surrender to the mind’s dissolve, the body’s electric light,
nerve endings firing like exploding stars.
“You’re good,” they all said:
you’d think somebody was doing a survey.
Girls say yes to boys who say no, and then
your professor asks if you’re wearing underwear,
when you meet for your conference on the poetry of Yeats.

Crossing the border after midnight in a borrowed car
after a visit to the after-hours doctor’s office in Sarnia.
Nodding out in the back seat, pills wearing off.
He was a legend among undergraduates:
cheap and reliable, always on call,
until a month later the headlines screamed
“Abortion Doc!” when a girl died in his office
and he dragged her down to the river
and dumped her body in the underbrush.

Cynthia Huntington

Let There be Light

February 4, 2013 § Leave a comment


“Have you started dinner yet?”
“No, I’m reading your blog.”
“Okay, that excuse works.”

Nothing like describing how you’re enjoying making dinner to kill the pleasure in making dinner. But it’s his turn anyway, though I still feel guilty whenever he cooks. I grew up with my mother in the kitchen and I don’t find this oppressive the way I do having men think women are stupid or weak or Satan’s tool (a porno flick even Dante would love).

What I love is that it’s growing lighter. I feel like I’m coming out of a strange prison: not only January but a sleep/wake cycle that had me in bed until noon, awake until 4 am. Hardly any light at all. I felt like I was crawling through a tunnel. Now I’m getting up earlier and the sun is lingering into the cocktail hour, not that I have cocktails at this hour, but I love that phrase for some reason. Maybe because I associate it with sunset at Lake Winnepesaukee (1965-1970) and with that moment when all over the city lamps are turned on and the windows glow.

I’m not getting much writing done, but have a few editing jobs and possibilities, and am making jewelry. Venetian glass, pearl, fire agate, lapis, coral, lava rock, rose quartz, crystal. I’m not quite ready enough for serious creativity—all those blasts of emotion and desire. Writing novels is sexy work, whether you’re writing about sex or not, and its scary. I’ve never been fond of fear, but at least when I was younger I could feel its connection to excitement and the unknown. Now it just feels nasty, like discovering a nest of scorpions in your chest cavity. Remember the last time that happened to you? You had to put the wire down your throat and turn on the electricity, then deal with the biting and burning and the godawful stink…

I told a client the other day that when you’re blocked it’s good to write scenes because the action takes over and you think less. I get the same result from writing this blog. I suppose the action is the back and forth of remembering and forgetting the reader—which, in some ways, is even sexier than fiction, but not as s&m. No, that’s not quite right…a blog is a flirtation; a novel is adolescence, prostitution, marriage, divorce, the grand passion that wrecks your life.

I’d rather feed the scorpions.

Over dinner, which we share with the cats (and Fitzroy eats more of what I cook than my stepchildren ever did) we talk about moving to Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador—the scattered, low-rent Florida of the baby boomers. I’m addicted to the pictures: roomy homes with terraces or balconies, gardens, views of the mountains. But New Yorkers relocating is always dangerous, even for the sleepy and most agreeable among us. The rest of the world’s a vacation, or a backdrop for reality TV shows.

In Antigua

“In Antigua I am famous. I am bathed in jasmine 
and pressed with warm stones.”
—Carnival Cruise ad in the New Yorker

In Albuquerque, on the other hand, I am infamous; children 
throw stones and the elderly whisper behind their hands. 
In Juneau, I am glacial, a cool blue where anyone can bathe 
for a price. In Rio I am neither exalted nor defamed; I walk 
the streets and nothing makes sense, voices garbled, something 
about electricity, something about peonies and cheap wool.

In Prague I am as fabulous as Napoleon and everyone 
knows it. They give me a horse and I tell them this horse 
will be buried with me, I tell them I will call the horse either 
Andromeda or Murphy and all applaud wildly. In Montreal 
I am paler than I am in Toronto. In Istanbul I trip over cracks 
in the sidewalk and no one rushes to take my elbow, to say 
Miss or brew strong tea for a poultice. In Sydney they talk 
about my arrival for days. I sit outside the opera house 
waiting for miracles, and when none occur in a fortnight

it’s Ecuador, where the old gods include the small scythes 
of my fingernails in their rituals and I learn that anything 
can ferment, given opportunity, given terra cotta. In Paris 
I’m up all night. Off the Gold Coast, I marry a reverend 
who swears that pelicans are god’s birds and numbers them 
fervently, meanwhile whistling. Near Bucharest I go all 
invisible, also clammy, also way more earnest than I ever was 
in Memphis. For three Sundays I wander skinny side streets
 saying amphora, amphora.

–Kerri Webster

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