Cake Night

December 13, 2012 § Leave a comment


We won’t hear about Mouchette’s test results until Saturday or Monday. Charles says he can’t think of anything else, but I’ve managed to make myself believe it will be all right. She’s occasionally moving her jaw back and forth as if to say, “There’s something wrong here, Mom, have you seen my teeth?” I hate looking in her mouth and seeing them missing, though she still has her front fangs.

We went to a poetry reading tonight at Cake on the Lower East Side. I used to go there often in the old days, when it was just beginning to become gentrified, my friends scoring cheap apartments among the Italian cafes and cloth merchants. I think there were maybe two places to eat. Now it’s a jumping and very young neighborhood,the sort of streets where you think they’ll card you in the bars, kick you out if you’re over 35. When I look into those joints—the talk, the drinks, the boys, the jive—I don’t feel nostalgia for youth but only for my youthful body, which has gone to the same distant happy place as Mouchette’s teeth. (Where you will also find the old Italian men who used to sit on their stoops or in chairs on the street—thick, short, round-shouldered bodies, drooping eyelids—looking at us with a gaze I’m beginning to grow into.)

The reading room at Cake, a café and bar, was in the basement of a narrow storefront and it was dark, dank and musty, with red glitter tinsel hanging at the back of the designated stage. Other than bar stools, there were only tiny, hard, plastic cubes masquerading as chairs, and Thai rock music on the sound system. Charles said it was exactly the sort of place he finds himself in his dreams when runs and runs but can’t find the exit. I thought it was more like one of those fictional bars where a handful of characters hunker down against the monsters that are eating the townspeople, much of the action happening as a result of a slow, inevitable slide into drunkenness. In other words, I liked it just fine.

There was a two-drink minimum and since one glass of the house wine (poured to the very brim of a jelly glass) was more than enough for me, Charles had three gin and tonics. He’s making dinner now. It’s okay if it takes a while.

We went because Alissa Heyman was reading. She’s the curator of the Cornelia Street Perfect Sense poetry series where I’ve read twice. I like her (she’s kind, considerate and wears great lipstick) and I liked her poems a lot: desire, fairytales, three poems about a girl who marries a skull. The last three lines of the first skull poem:

One day I will be a skull too,
and my husband won’t mind a bit.
He’ll say, “Now you’ve grown into a real beauty.”

To read more, click here

A few other poets read, including Cathy Park Hong. Hong, lithe and charming, is the author of three books: Translating Mo’um, Dance Dance Revolution and Engine Empire. says, “A review of her work in Rain Taxi Review of Books described Hong’s…work that ‘manages to create a space for the irreducibility of meaning.’”

How much space does the irreducibility of meaning take up? Would you know if it was in hiding your closet or sitting beside you in a taxi? Sucking out the contents of your wallet?

The poems are good anyway.

Remember to check out my Etsy site and BUY STUFF. Do it for Mouchette and, if you have no female friends or relations, give a pair of earrings to your favorite lady veterinary worker. I do.

Ontology of Chang and Eng, the Original Siamese Twins

Chang spoke / Eng paused.

Chang threw a beach ball / Eng caught it.

Chang told a white lie / Eng got caught for the lie.

Chang forgot his first language / Eng picked up English.

In letters, Chang referred to themselves as “I” / Eng as “we.”

While proselytizing, the preacher asked Chang, “Do you know where you
go after you die?” Chang said, “Yes, yes, up dere.” / Thinking they didn’t
understand, he asked, “Do you know where I go after I die?” Eng said,
“Yes, yes, down dere.”
Chang married Adelaine / Eng married her sister Sally.

Chang made love to his wife / Eng daydreamed about money,
his Siam childhood and roast beef. He tried not to get aroused.

Chang checked his watch, scratched his head and fidgeted/
Eng made love to his wife.

Chang became drunk, knocked Eng out with a whiskey bottle
and went carousing with his boys / Eng was unconscious.

Chang proved Einstein’s time dilation while drunkenly running
from one bar to the next / Eng was unconscious.

Chang apologized / Eng grudgingly accepted.

Chang paused / Eng spoke / Chang interrupted.

“I am my own man!” / Eng echoed, “We are men yes.”


Both broke their bondage with their pitchman, Mr. Coffin.

Both owned land in North Carolina and forty slaves.

Both were nostalgic for Siam: childhood of preserving
duck eggs, watching tiger and elephant fights with the King,
Mother Nok who loved them equally.

The physicians were surprised to find both were “personable.”

Both did not appreciate the outhouse joke.
“Are all Orientals joined?” “Allow me to stick this very sharp pin
in Eng’s neck to see if both of you feel the pain.” “Is it true that
you turn babies into cabbages?” “We are nice, civilized people.
We offer you bananas.”

Both were sick of fascination.

Both woke up, played checkers, sired children, owned whips
for their slaves, shot game, ate pie. Both wore French black silk, smoked
cigars, flirted. Both believed in the tenets of individualism.
Both listed these activities to the jury and cried, “See, we are American!”

Both were released with a $500 fine for assaulting another head hunter.

Both were very self-aware.

Both insisted on an iron casket so that grave robbers would not
dig up their bodies and sell them to the highest bidder.

Both did not converse with one another except towards the end:

“My lips are turning blue, Eng” / Eng did not answer.

“They want our bodies, Eng.” / Eng did not answer.

“Eng, Eng! My lips are turning blue.” / Eng turned to his body and did not answer.

–Cathy Park Hong

What I Want For Christmas

December 11, 2012 § Leave a comment


I made an apple-pear pie, tossing the fruit with brandy and sour cherry jam as well as a little brown sugar and spices. It was as good as it sounds, and Charles suggested I could make a living baking pies and selling them on the street, and I said I wish I had a big apartment so I could have a Christmas party, and he said he wanted to eat all the pie himself.

I’m trying to get Christmassy but this is not the year for it. Medical bills have taken all the money we don’t have and that’s just for the animals. I’m feeling just the slightest bit psychopathic, little flickers around the edges, a kind of psychopath-halo effect.

Charles thinks me an angel because I cook dinner most nights and bake pies. “It was more impressive when I was 17,” I tell him. “By now, culinary competence is the least you could expect.”

“Frankly, I don’t expect anything.” The renegade wife is either punished ever after or appreciated all the more. If it had been the first, I would have killed one of us by now. As it is, things are good.

Well, maybe not. I woke up very early yesterday morning to take Mouchette to the vet for dental work. My usual bedtime is 3:30 am, and when dragged from the depths of slumber at 7, I experienced, for 15 minutes or so, what it’s like to be not depressed. It’s nothing like the way I feel when I up the Zoloft dosage, which replaces pain with white noise and a vaguely post-mortem indifference. No, this was the old me: the inner landscape colorful, various, rich with ideas, spread out in all directions, cities, villages, forest…I used to live there. God, I miss it.

But I’m glad it still exists, even if I can’t get to it. My buried self. What a weird life.

Mouchette needed thirteen teeth removed—we were expecting two or three. Peridontal disease. The staggering bill was the least of it. The doctor discovered a mass on the very back of her tongue and biopsied it while she was under.

I can’t think about it now. I have to believe she’ll be okay. She’s long and slinky and beautiful, velvet and snow: black/white nose, fuzzy chin, white whiskers. Her eyes brim with feeling. She sleeps on my chest in the afternoon, heavy and radiant as a warming iron. My Mouchette, my Mousie, my girl.

If she’s okay, that’s all the Christmas we need.

Last week, at KGB, Mark Doty mentioned Alan Dugan: “Whom I don’t think people read enough anymore.” I couldn’t remember if I’d ever read him, so I looked him up. Here’s a poem.

Drunken Memories Of Anne Sexton

The first and last time I met
my ex-lover Anne Sexton was at
a protest poetry reading against
some anti-constitutional war in Asia
when some academic son of a bitch,
to test her reputation as a drunk,
gave her a beer glass full of wine
after our reading. She drank
it all down while staring me
full in the face and then said
“I don’t care what you think,
you know,” as if I was
her ex-what, husband, lover,
what? And just as I
was just about to say I
loved her, I was, what,
was, interrupted by my beautiful enemy
Galway Kinnell, who said to her
“Just as I was told, your eyes,
you have one blue, one green”
and there they were, the two
beautiful poets, staring at
each others’ beautiful eyes
as I drank the lees of her wine.

Alan Dugan

Sneezle Cat

May 14, 2009 § 3 Comments


I’m taking my cat to the doctor later. He’s been sneezing and feeling poorly (picture above deceptive). His pretty pink nose is a little swollen and he’s rubbing snot all over me and everything else, I suppose because he’s itching.

I met his first owner, Julia, the other day. She’s a very charming, friendly NYU student. She gave me his adoption papers. He was found starving in Williamsburg with his sister, Dahlia. The shelter strongly recommended in his bio that he be adopted with his sister, because “he is very playful and will be bored alone.” Yup. I guess Dahlia is long gone.

His origins explain why he startles so easily and why he yearns for the outside—source of danger, fear and excitement, as it is for me too. Of course, he could be like that even if he had a safe kittenhood, but it satisfies me to know his story. I’m sorry he lost his sister. It’s a good thing when siblings team up against the cruel world.

For some reason, my mind keeps inserting the adjective ‘black’ in front of her name. The Black Dahlia was the sobriquet given to famous murder victim Elizabeth Short by reporters. (Novel by James Ellroy, film by Brian de Palma. Neither read or viewed recently.)

Elizabeth Short was found on January 15, 1947, in a vacant lot in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, severely mutilated, cut in half, and drained of blood. Her face was slashed from the corners of her mouth toward her ears, and she was posed with her hands over her head and her elbows bent at right angles.

Elizabeth Short was born in Hyde Park, Massachusetts and her father built miniature golf courses until the 1929 stock market crash. In 1930, he parked his car on a bridge and vanished,[1] leading some to believe he had committed suicide. Later, it was discovered he was alive. Elizabeth Short was raised in Medford, by her mother. Troubled by asthma and bronchitis, Elizabeth was sent to Florida at 16 for the winter, and spent the next three years living there during the cold months and in Medford the rest of the year, while working as a waitress. She was 5’5″ and 115 pounds, with bad teeth, light blue eyes and brown hair. At the age of 19, she went to Vallejo, California, to live with her father, who was working at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. The two moved to Los Angeles in early 1943, but after an argument, she left and got a job at one of the post exchanges at Camp Cooke (now Vandenberg Air Force Base), near Lompoc. She then moved to Santa Barbara, where she was arrested on September 23, 1943 for underage drinking and was sent back to Medford by juvenile authorities.

Elizabeth Short returned to Southern California in July 1946 to see an old boyfriend she met in Florida during the war. For the six months prior to her death, she remained in Southern California, mainly in the Los Angeles area. During this time, she lived in several hotels, apartment buildings, rooming houses, and private homes, never staying anywhere for more than a few weeks.

~Condensed from wikipedia article. Their links.

Perhaps I’ve been reading too many mystery novels. His sister is most likely The Apricot Danish, adopted by a strange, solitary novelist in his mid 40’s, determined to write the first bestselling paranormal romance in which the heroine changes, not into a lioness or a leopard, but an orange tabby cat with miraculous demon-killing powers.

The paranormal romance field is booming these days. If only I’d thought to write one 10 years ago. I’d be a natural. But now there are women falling in love with shapeshifters left and right (werewolves, weretigers, werehorses. The wererats are so far only supporting characters.) It makes you wonder how much bestiality really takes place in this country.

I do have a shapeshifter in my fantasy novel, but she’s dead. She doesn’t even come back as a vengeful ghost or a charismatic zombie. She’s merely a beautiful memory.


One thing I’d like to teach the cat is not to step on my breasts. I work in bed because it’s the most comfortable for my arms, and he sleeps near me. When he gets lonely, he walks up to my face for a cheek-rub without regard to terrain. When I yelp he runs and hides in the closet so I try not to, but it hurts. Especially when he steps directly on the nipple. That made me scream. An armored bra would be appreciated, if any of you have one lying around.

I like it when he walks up between my breasts and gently bites my chin. That’s just so romantic, so ruggedly masculine, so…feline. Nevertheless, I’d like to get him a sister-wife (everyone says he looks Egypytian), and let our honeymoon be over, but this trip to the vet today reminds me why I should think twice. Charles has offered to pay for it, in exchange for the 3 or 4 new pictures of the cat I send him every day, but cats live long and my sister the vet—who likes nothing better than working for free for relatives, friends of relatives and perfect strangers with the same first name as one of her relatives—lives out of town.

Later  Back from the vet, the one Julia used. I wasn’t thrilled with the guy, though he seemed to know his stuff. He kept asking questions that I had already answered in my initial conversation, when he wasn’t listening. He gave me antibiotics for the cat’s cold, telling me that cat colds were bacterial, not viral. What I understand (and perhaps I’m wrong) is they start out as viral, and then sometimes bacteria move in when the immune system is compromised. I wish I knew a way to talk to doctors that would indicate I have enough brains and background to understand simple or even moderately difficult medical concepts without making them feel they’re being clobbered by an Internet-crazed knowitall. I can talk to my sister, and I can talk to Whitney and Laura, who are people docs, but it would be nice to be able to talk to the attending physician.

Fitzroy freaked when I put him in the cat carrier, but was good at the doctor’s. He sat quietly on the metal table, looking scared, only trying to jump off every few minutes. He hissed at the technician once, but for good reason. Now he’s home and seems relaxed, sitting on the living room floor licking his butt where the thermometer went in.

Which reminds me of a story about someone my brother knows, who fed her cat cloves of garlic for days to cure worms. “The cat had worms literally hanging out its butt,” he said. I first remembered this as the woman stuffing the garlic up the cat’s anus, and only when I started trying to picture how the garlic got through the commuter-crowd of worms (and felt a pang of disbelief that this woman, whom I also know, would be so…hands-on), did I realize my mistake. The stillbirth of a tall tale.

catatvetAt the doctor’s

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