Archive for July, 2007

July 27, 2007

"A Fable”

            Paluk—has there been a better father, a worse? His children loved him, for he was often home to play with them. He spoiled his wife with precious glassware and stones only found in the deepest sand.

            They puzzled of course at how Paluk could afford such things, or find them at all. But their joy outweighed their curiosity.

            One day Paluk’s eldest son espied him strolling in the market. The boy rant to greet his father. Coming up behind him, he saw Paluk deftly cut a Hunter’s pouch from its beltstraps.

            The boy dashed home in tears, inconsolable by his mother, who listened as only mothers listen to boys’ fancies. Before Paluk came home, the boy went to his parents’ bedroom and emptied the jewelry box  overflowing with glass of the deepest, strangest colors. Colors only found in the earth. He took the treasures and stashed them beneath his bed, secure in his sense of justice.

            When Paluk arrived home, his wife told him of the missing items. Mother and father questioned the boy, and soon found the treasures. Paluk sat his son down and explained the immoralities of stealing. Soon, the mother had finished cooking the Jackal meat Paluk had brought home. As punishment, Paluk sent his son to bed without supper.

            Hunger tore at the boy’s stomach. He saw a man carrying a parcel of meat down the road, and considered taking it from his hands. Before he leapt out his window, Paluk called to him from behind.

            “Instead of taking that man’s meat, would you prefer some of our own?”

            The boy slept well on a full stomach.


July 25, 2007


(This is a sketch of a city that no longer is. It’s for a longer piece I’m writing. Enjoy.)


            Daruhn is because it was not. When it is not again, Daruhn will be again. We will forget when the walls were built, when we came to Another Desert. We cannot know that we will have to find Another Desert again. For now, Daruhn is.

            Daruhn is peace between sun and desert. Before dawn, the gardeners find their way to the commons. They nurse the bushes and pick the Berries, filling baskets enough to circle the gardens. You may take as many as you can carry, but drop nothing. Waste is high sin in the desert. The glassblowers rise as early as the gardeners in the commons. The rich, thick sand beneath the white walking sand bubbles and liquefies on the vents reaching deep into the ground. Dark glass becomes the blood of Daruhn. It carries the water and cuts the meat; it shields homes and eyes. It flies to the jackal’s heart—and the Clay-People’s skittering feet. With Berries and glass, Daruhn has nothing to ask of the moon. Daruhn is peace between sun and desert.

            Daruhn is music. By the bushes in the commons, singers throw endless music to the sun. Only moonrise brings silence, silence and fear. The melodies waver through majestic scales. Words matter less than sound, but song-words are sung. They sing Amun, vaijah voro voruhn with grateful hearts. Children sit about the platforms and learn the song-words—if not the meanings, then the ages of feeling behind them. Nobody forgets these songs, so that when Daruhn will be, Daruhn will be music.

            Daruhn is strength. The Hunters armed with heavy obsidian kukris and bolas search beyond the walls for jackals and Clay-People. The gray-skinned phantoms who live in caves and mountains. Hunters cannot trust these silent watchers. Their only sound is singing for the moon. But moon is inconstant, wavering, weak. Daruhn is strength, and has no love for moon, or its friends.

            The Hunters say on the highest mountains you can see Storm coming. Who can say what brings Storm? The brave say Daruhn’s walls have weathered wind before; the humble have packed some things. Everyone blames the Clay-People, but they remain silent and watch. Will they watch Storm blow over us all, or will they remain safe in their caves?

            I suppose ultimately it doesn’t matter. Another Desert is big enough for a city ruined and a city restored. If tomorrow Daruhn is not, Daruhn will be.

July 21, 2007

"The Lip of Everything”

Here we are at the lip of everything.

You brought me to the plateau’s edge with sure steps. I would have turned back if not for such a firm path to follow. Footprints only guide my own steps; I cannot bear the whipping sand and dust when I bring my head up from a groundward gaze.

The seasons will change in moments, and the canyon below will roar with red wind. You say we’re light enough—and the wind will be strong enough—to carry us aloft.

What comes next no one has said.

Maybe the gale will carry us off to some other canyon. We’ll spend the winter there, and return when the seasons turn again. Maybe we’ll be too heavy and fall below the streams of red dust rushing through the canyon—down below hope. And maybe the wind will have mercy and set us down gently at the foot of the steppe.

Have you ever been this high? I can breathe the air so easily, despite the wind and the dust. Here it moves past you; at the bottom it hangs all around. This is glory.

You step off before I can say another word—so fast I can’t see where you’ve gone. Stepping to the edge, I don’t see you falling, but you could already have fallen below the red windriver.

Here I am at the lip of everything. Everything I stand to gain, everything to lose.

I’ve heard no worthier gamble.

Blogged with Flock

July 19, 2007

"The Last Time I Came Home”

            The television whines when I come inside, and I hear the buzz of the fluorescent bulb above the kitchen sink, but my ears don’t twitch with the presence of another person.

            She ought to be here. But then, I know to take nothing for granted with Mom. It’s been—what?—ten years of this madness? There’s a glass with a few drops of clear liquid in it left out on the counter. I sniff it by instinct.

            It’s water. This time.

            “Mom?” No answer. Students’ papers litter the kitchen table. Essays on Frankenstein and MacBeth. The papers haven’t been graded—those poor students. They’re dated from last month. Criminal that they have to suffer a woman destroying herself.

 The smell of cigarette smoke has gone deader than usual. A week-old ashtray rather than a chain-smoker in the other room. Because I don’t gag in my own house, I’m concerned. Because the atmosphere has calmed, I can approach her room, her domain of drink and smoke and self-imposed solitude. This is what you’ll never hear at the seminars for dealing with addicted family members. They speak in hopeful terms; they’ll let you imagine a future of magical change. They never explain the failure, the cycle repeating endlessly as she drowns over the years in regret and lost opportunities. Nothing prepares you. You think you can handle it as it comes, but sometimes…

I am not ready for the blood.

The couch is caked in it—who knows for how long? A thick trail leads to the bathroom. I find her bloody, broken—hardly a person at all. I kneel closer, choking back vomit to see her struggle for breath. She hasn’t eaten for days, and a small, bantam woman as it is.

I wonder if today I’ll see my mother die.

I dial 911 slowly, like a drumbeat.

Things begin

            to fall apart

like a string-doll losing tension,

                        falling to its base.

I connect; I disconnect.

And then, as I hear myself give name and address,

I wonder,

After so many years and,

So many she’s hurt,

So many chances she’s squandered,

If I woke up to an atmosphere

even calmer than today’s,

and I saw a glass on the counter

without needing to smell it,

Would it be,


So bad?

July 18, 2007

"Cape May, New Jersey”

                Cape May is made of color. They folded it, wrapped it, molded and sculpted it into a city of rainbow opulence. The houses float through time as message bottles on the saltsea, bottles full of propriety and nobility robed in royal hues of purple and blue. Sometimes even pink.

Who lives in the most colorful houses has understood the message, taken it to heart. They conduct themselves as Victorians—stand erect, speak correctly, observe the rules of society.

I saw a child’s birthday part in a house so purple—oh!—paint could not imitate the color. The house was made of light. White lawn furniture dotted the yard, each piece poised, exactly placed. Stemware on every table, names on every seat. Two ponies trotted about the backyard as a violinist tuned up in the front.

I didn’t see the birthday child, but imagined my daughter having such a party. I dreamt I could give her ponies and violins and a buffet for thirty served on glistening white lawn furniture.

Our house is not so colorful; Jessica would have no ponies.

So we will never walk together by the houses made of light. Those purples and blues—sometimes pinks—will not brighten her childhood memories. She would lament for what she did not have, for the muted tones our house contained by contrast to Cape May.

I love Jessica too much for her to suffer that.

She will never see the colors of Cape May.

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