Saturday, December 10, 2011

I suspect

That people are better than I give them credit for,

That by now, I and everyone I know should wear a Made in China label,

That we all have imaginary friends, or will one day,

That I should forgive before I forget,

That small joys, such as Shark Week, Saturdays, and toe socks, are heaven sent,

And that people who ate their boogers as children are mentally unstable.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Confessional

I used to think I had to live a tortured life in order to be interesting. I welcomed catastrophe because catastrophe meant stories. In truth, this formula works. After years of self-inflicted disasters, I do have stories to tell. However, I'll never tell most of them. These narratives now represent a part of me that I'd rather keep to myself.

You've heard the advice before: never have regrets. Whoever came up with such bullshit?

It is natural, human, and right to regret. Without regret we cannot self-examine. Without self-examination we cannot change. Of course, we should not wallow in regret. Wallowing leads to chronic, blinding remorse. Chronic, blinding remorse leads to depression, and let's face it  depression is the most selfish of all maladies.

Thus I regret, wholly and unapologetically. I regret mistakes I've made in childish, narcissistic pursuit of a story to tell. I do not regret regretting.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Insomniac

When he can't sleep I can't sleep.
I fret and fidget in a smoky semidream
And nearly implore the ghosts of my black
To pull me from the false harbor
Of my dwindling blue.

When he tosses he turns my stomach
The bed seesaws like a raft in turbulent waters.
I clutch the corner of the mattress
And pray the wretched vessel will not capsize,
Will not send me tumbling

To the place where I once witnessed
The other sleepless one
Perish in the waves
Beyond my empty hands.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Drive-thru Drive-by

I often forget to eat. I'm a recovering anorexic, and my doctor used to tell me this was common. But I haven't had significant problems eating for several years now. In fact, sometimes I wish I could muster a modicum of guilt about eating two doughnuts before dinner, or eating a whole bag of tortilla chips in one day. But I've long lost the anxiety that used to keep me up at night, obsessively counting my daily caloric intake. No, these days I sleep soundly. For once in my life, I almost like food. In fact, I even indulge in the occasional drive-thru goodie, like a milkshake from Burger King or a deep-fried burrito from Taco Time (delicious with the extra hot sauce).

I allow myself these treats. I happily hand the cashier my Amex card at the window. I bob my head to radio tunes as I wait for my card and receipt. The cashier hands these to me and then does one of two things: (a) she turns around for a moment to pick up my order, or (b) she asks me to pull up to the second window, where another employee will give me my food.

What do I do nearly every time?

I drive away, sans treat.

I've done this at least twenty times in the last year, at restaurants ranging from McDonald's to Del Taco, at hours ranging from 6 AM to midnight. I don't realize I've left without the food until I've nearly arrived at my next destination, which is usually home or work. By then I'm either too embarrassed or too pressed for time to turn around and pick up the food.

Before work this morning I stopped by McDonald's and ordered a fruit and yogurt parfait. I drove to work parfaitless and a dollar poorer. After ten minutes on the freeway, my error dawned on me. I opened my window and unleashed a torrent of curse words into the frigid air. And then I made plans to hit the Subway drive-thru at lunch.

For the record - I managed to wait for the sandwich.

Friday, October 28, 2011

An Abdication of Sorts

You may take down the flag
That lists, threadbare, upon your belly
And disallow my occupation of your skin and spine
But never forget you have been mapped
Beaten, civilized
And yes, exploited – but
Loved. Always loved.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I can't write anything but To Do lists anymore

I try to focus. First to gather, and then to ready, steady,


And hurl the thousands of black shapes that flit and flicker about in my brain into the restful white where they belong.

But writing requires two key ingredients: ample idle time and more than a little self-absorption. I work 70-80 hours a week lately, so I'm fresh out of both.

Even now I can't stop my letters, morphemes, words, phrases, sentences from forming To Do lists long enough to compose something less banal.

So I give up. Here's my To Do list for the work week:

1. Teach students the difference between the words thesis and feces.  They keep getting them confused for some reason, and I'm tired of the giggling when I tell Tommy that his thesis is solid or when I tell Mary to keep pushing for a stronger one.

2. Remind students that while the word "fuck" may be modified to serve as any of the eight parts of speech, one may not do the same with any other word. Rules are rules, kids. But I admire your creativity.

3. Review spelling with the sophomores:
  • Text should not be spelled txt
  • IDK is not an acceptable answer on a quiz
  • Although we have a delightful student named Luv in the class, the word is still love. Also remind Vawdka's parents to (a) never name another child after an alcoholic beverage, even if it played a vital role in the child's conception, and (b) if they insist, to at least check the label for proper spelling first.
  • Spell-check is not full-proof: without thorough proofreading, public relations may inadvertently become pubic relations, as it did on a recent paper I graded.
4. Praise students more.

5. Scowl less.

6. Remember that you, too, once insisted on using a heart in place of a dot on your "i"s.

7. Manage your time so you can write more. You're happier when you write.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I still wake up trembling
scurry to the window to make sure
that the spaces between the stars
still spell my name.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How to Tell If He/She Is THE ONE

As my husband and I opened up a web browser a few minutes ago, an article on our homepage caught my eye. It was one of those "How to Tell If He/She Is The One" articles that offer useless advice to eager American consumers of useless advice. We clicked on the link to the article for fun - I told Husband I wanted to make sure I had made the right choice. The author of the article was promoting his new book about how to tell if he or she is "The One." We both agreed that if a person goes out and purchases a book about "how to tell" and actually reads all 200 pages, then he/she is definitely not The One. Just saying.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Widow's House

We bought the house in February,
Allowed it to hibernate until May,
And then we began our assault.

We stripped the house of silly relics:
Turquoise carpet and pink toilet,
Big blue sink, plastic chandelier,
Five layers of floral wallpaper –
One for each decade she had loved her home –
Even her hedge of holly bushes had to go.

Our coarse hands pulled at her delicate ruffled curtains;
With glee we threw each remaining piece of her life into the dumpster
To make space for ours.
And when I discarded the last piece of pink tile, I paused,
And wondered if she’d have cried to see

The kitchen where she’d made her famous pork chops,
The big blue tub where she’d drawn bubble baths for her only child, a boy,
The hearth her husband had designed himself,
All supplanted by our notions of modern superiority.
I sighed in recognition that one day our revisions, too,
Would need “remodeling.”

Saturday, August 27, 2011


You are
The severed limb
That lies forgotten on the arena.
With strained voice
I struggle to sing above the sound
Of your phantom pulse.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How do you know you are?

I published this post on my The World is Your Diary, but I'd like to post it here, too in case anyone reads it.

How do you know you are?

During a lesson on the human condition today, I asked my students to respond to the following journal prompt:

What makes us human? How do you know you are human, anyway?

I (and my students) would like to know what the world thinks of this question, so please take a moment to respond thoughtfully in the comments. Do it for the children!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011



Your gaze is coarse
Like line-dried linens
Sweet-smelling and
Sun-warm but rough to the touch

You strip me of verbs
And use them to
Skin me, pepper me with your pupils
And sear my being
With heavy nouns I blush to utter

But I return your gaze
As an insolent child stares down the sun.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Riddle

My insides are a matter of opinion,
And my possessor selects the tint and temperature
That my crystal skin reveals.
He hoists me to the heavens in exultation,
Then kisses me with greedy lips
And I drown him in dizzying blood.
He transfuses and again drains me with delight,
For I am naught but a vessel of delicious summer night.

What am I?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


This poem came out of a discovery my husband made this morning in our garden: an old horseshoe. We suppose the horseshoe must be at least 100 years old, as this neighborhood has not been zoned for farming in at least that long.


We tend the garden,
Manipulate earth, roots, limbs
In desert sun we contrive an oasis.
The shovel strikes a rusty horseshoe,
A remnant of others who have sweated here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Top 10 Reasons I Quit Facebook Today

10. Zuckerberg has still not added a "dislike" button. I thoroughly dislike him for this.
9. I now have one less password to remember - and one less account to be hacked.
8.  We are not really friends. If you actually were my friend, you'd know that.
7. I will never have to decline a Farmville invitation again.
6. I miss my girlish figure, and I swear I lost five pounds by simply clicking on the "deactivate" button.
5. I don't want to know that so-and-so from high school just ate a burrito, or that she has a nosebleed, or that she "checked in" at the bikini waxer.
4. I don't want others to know that I just ate a burrito, or that I have a nosebleed, or that I "checked in" at the bikini waxer.
3. Facebook just isn't a worthwhile addiction. I'd much rather take up drinking again.
2. I'm tired of fighting the urge to correct my friends' spelling.
1. My Number One reason is a bit of a long story. I'll message you about it later - oh, wait - shit.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I would write the story
But then I couldn’t hide
Beneath my tent of white paper
Keeping vigil, armed
With a sharpened lead spear
In soundless wait for provocation.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The American Woman - Her life in foods with funny names

The life of the American Woman may be understood as a series of foods with funny names:
She begins her days sucking Similac from lovingly sterilized bottles left by Mom with instructions for the fourteen-year-old sitter to ignore.
Her first real trauma involves her graduation to pureed beets and Brussels sprouts. After her infancy she never willingly eats them again, except when she has her own child and tries in vain to convince her that blood-red beet pulp is “really yummy! Num-num! Get ready for the airplane!”
The American Woman’s happiest memories are marked with milk mustaches and palms sticky with the remnants of cream-filled friends: Twinkies, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, Zingers and Whoopie Pies. When she is older, she abstains from those decadent, individually wrapped treasures that once made daily appearances in her Scooby-Doo lunch box. She is told that Little Debbie and that nameless Hostess are monsters who seduce healthy innocents with their trans-fatty S’mores and Zebra Cakes and steal their girlish figures.
 Yes, the day comes when Suzy Qs and Sno Balls lose their place at the table to more sophisticated foods with funny names. The American Woman’s shiny new chopsticks swipe and squeeze at insipid cubes of tofu and gaudy cylinders of sushi. She acquires a taste for quinoa and couscous, and only privately wonders why one should ever want to acquire a taste for something that tastes bad.
As fate would have it, in the twilight of her life, the American Woman would kill for bulgur-stuffed bell peppers or sashimi and tempura or – fuck it; it’s too late for her figure anyway – a delightfully squashy Twinkie. But she can only dream of delicious memories now, while she stubbornly purses her lips in futile rejection of the nursing home menu of pureed beets and Brussels sprouts.

Monday, July 11, 2011


I have missed you, dear blog. Husband and I recently moved into our new home, and in the chaos of the move packing, moving, unpacking, organizing, cleaning, fixing things, breaking things, fixing things, meeting the crazy neighbors, avoiding the crazy neighbors, searching fruitlessly for lost ties, right shoes, the dog food, the checkbook, the computer – I had little time to sit, think, and write. The move, combined with other various commitments, made me a mindless automaton. I worked all day and collapsed into my bed at night, never stopping to admire the sunset over the lake or read a new poem.  

This afternoon, as the madness subsided and I finally started up the long-lost laptop, I found myself thinking about who I am when I don’t have time to write or think about language. What do I do when I disconnect from my word-nerd alter ego? Are these activities worth it? When I fail to make time for writing, have I betrayed some critical part of myself, caused a vital organ to stop working inside me? I wondered what I had done in the last few weeks that could possibly be more important than writing. This list emerged from my meditation:

I worked to prepare a peaceful space in which I hope to write volumes of bullshit in the blissful years to come.
I reconnected with old friends and made new ones – the face-to-face way, not the Facebook way.
I discovered new writing territories, new objects for my musing.
 I remembered that in order to recreate experience with words, I must keep experiencing.  
I fell in love with my husband again.
I volunteered at a summer school program and helped children write their own ghost stories.
I tiled my shower. And then I sang in my shower.
I learned to appreciate indoor plumbing. One never notices the little things until they stop working and flood the bathroom.
I laughed. And I observed how my laugh bounced around me in the empty house, like a ping-pong ball against the naked walls. I laughed some more.
I rediscovered how alive I feel when I am in motion. As much as I enjoy spending hours tinkering with adjectives and adverbs, I never feel more present in the world than when I’m moving around in it.

I’ll write again tomorrow. Or maybe I won’t.  But whatever I do, I’ll be adding to the reservoir of lived experiences I draw upon when my soul needs watering. And living is worth a lifetime.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011


(My real name. Perhaps I'll explain the pseudonym some other time.)

I once read somewhere that my name means devoted. When I was a kid, a friend and I looked up our names in one of those name dictionaries that pregnant women often consult in search of something meaningful to call their child, only to end up combining two names into something ridiculous like Kyler or Ashlynn. My friend’s name (Sara) meant princess while mine merely meant devoted, which to an eight year-old can only mean boring. Nonetheless I’ve always liked my name. It means much more than the definition I discovered in that name book years ago. It means my mom. She’s Isabel, and I’m the Anglo version, Elizabeth. I’m Elizabeth because she could not be. In Cuba during the time of her birth, it was uncool for parents to give their children Anglo names, so while my grandmother wanted an Elizabeth she decided to settle for an Isabel instead. Thirty-something years later in the United States, Isabel named her first and only daughter Elizabeth as a sort of middle-finger to Cuban craziness.
                Elizabeth is sophisticated, perhaps even snobby. She has little time to bother with poems and pop songs – though admittedly, this probably has something to do with the fact that Elizabeth doesn’t rhyme with anything appealing (death, bad breath, crystal meth…you get the picture). Elizabeth is thank God I’ve got a Christian name so the priest doesn’t give me dirty looks during confirmation rehearsal and wonder aloud why kids these days are given made-up names like Echo and Whisper and Kyler and Ashlynn. He made those kids choose proper names for confirmation. I got to keep mine. Elizabeth is one of those strong names that require their bearers to be tough, too. That’s because Elizabeth is always a fight against those who would cut her down to something smaller and weaker and devoid of meaning, such as Liz, Beth, Betty, Bessie, and God forbid, Lizzy. Elizabeth is strong and built to last. Elizabeth is saints and queens and movie stars and my mom who couldn’t be but made her daughter a declaration of independence.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


You find me exotic. You've never seen
Eyes hair lips neck
Colors or lines like mine
On anyone else.

Should you ever leave the space
Where you find me striking,
You may discover the place
Where my red dress fits everyone else.

You will not know me then.
But I will look upon you as a strangely beautiful thing
And place you under glass.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Name calling, the Bible Belt, and other adventures

I used to work as a bill collector for a major financial company. Though the job paid well, demanding money from angry debtors was an onerous responsibity and I left work every evening feeling as though someone had taken a massive shit on my soul. Anyone who has ever worked a crappy job can attest to the importance of finding the humorous in the horrible. One must find something to laugh about if one is to make it until lunch break without setting one's own eyebrows on fire. Here are a few tidbits that helped me cope. Perhaps if you're reading this while struggling through your own shift at work, this post may help you kill a bit of time (before you finally lose it and kill those around you).

Customer names (not full names, of course, as I don't wish to be be sued) - The US of A is a diverse place, and because I called people from around the nation, I encountered a variety of um, unforgettable names, such as:

Hung Long
R-sha (pronounced Radasha. Seriously.)
Sopretty (Anyone with this kind of name must ironically be sohideous, don't you think?)
Bich (first name, actually pronounced Bitch. Again, seriously.)
King Kong
Bastardi (a last name!)

Sunday calls to the Bible Belt states - These calls typically went something like this:

Nadya:        Hello, may I speak with ___________?
Customer:   Yes, this is ___________.
Nadya:        (Sir/Ma'am), this is Nadya calling from __________ Financial
Customer:   Ma'am, are you aware that it's Sunday, the Lord's Day, the Sabbath? What you think you're doin', doin' business on the Sabbath?
Nadya:       Yes, I'm aware that it's Sunday, but I really need to talk to you regarding your 200-day past due balance and haven't been able to reach you during the week 
Customer:    Bitch, how dare you call me on a fucking Sunday? Don't you know that it's the goddamn Sabbath and that you don't fucking call people on a fucking Sunday when they're getting ready to fucking  go to fucking church? Didn't your mother teach you any fucking manners? Don't ever fucking call me on a fucking Sunday ever again!
(inward breath, awkward pause) 
And, um, have a blessed day, ma'am.

The excuses for not paying on time:

"My dog ate the bill. And then my dog died. And then I got cancer from stressin' so bad about my dead dog."

"I had a medical emergency and had to leave town."  - The customer's account history actually shows that he has been partying it up in Vegas all month. 5-star hotels, trashy strip clubs, all the evidence is there on my computer screen as he details his "emergency."

"Let's not talk about me. Let's talk about you. Nadya's a pretty name. You seeing anyone right now?"

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Questions I can't answer

Why do I write?

Who is the soul that writes verses that matter? Does it take a special type of person? Am I, could I ever be, that person?

Why do I feel like I'm suffocating when life is full and there's no time for writing? I'm fortunate to be busy doing meaningful things, things that are perhaps more sensible than toying with words no one will read. So why do I have a near-overpowering urge to shave my head like Britney Spears, merely because I have no time to sit around musing on adjectives that are synonymous with gossamer?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I'm Not Ready to Wake Up

The silent winter garden
Awakes from its nap
Slowly stretches its limbs
And cries strident summer color.

I wish it would shut up.

Monday, June 6, 2011

On Things Lost

I must not dip my fingers
In the ashes of my sacrifice.
I must not gaze at summer skies
In search of balloons I let go
Long ago
Or beg the wind to return my whispers
As it often does my screams.
And neither must you linger at this dusty altar,
Singing dirges to your lamb,
For I am only borrowed carbon:
I too, am a gift to be returned.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I'm miles from dandelion afternoons;
My life and lawn are manicured.
The world spins submissively atop a plate,
Ready for my consumption
In one minute and thirty.
I haven’t felt hungry in years;
I’ve long devoured my desires.
I can no longer hear God
For I’ve eaten Him, too.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Lie

How many lives you have been complicit in tarnishing, perhaps even ruining? How many lies have you told? How many rumors, however outlandish, have you been all-too-eager to embrace and perpetuate?
For years, my childhood friends and I were terrified of Old Man Tim, the ancient (at least in our eyes) hermit who lived in the corner bungalow on our little tree-lined street. None of us had ever spoken to him, and hours of spying through the man’s window never yielded anything more controversial than his awful taste in daytime television. Despite our enormous lack of proof, we felt certain that Old Man Tim was a pedophile. We made up stories so convincing that we soon bought them ourselves. Eventually enough of us believed our scandalous tales that our parents did as well, and the poor man became a pariah.
The years raced by in front of Old Man Tim’s living room window, as did the block parties births deaths skinned knees fireworks love affairs heartbreaks tulips marigolds falling maple leaves snowmen. When he died, no one in the neighborhood attended the funeral. Many in the neighborhood rejoiced to see him go, still firmly believing that the old man was a child molester, though in truth, no one had ever spoken to Tim, and no one could claim to have been victimized by him.
In all likelihood, Tim was simply a lonely widower, all but forgotten by his children and grandchildren, who only ever called on Sundays to make sure he hadn’t fallen down the stairs or drowned in the bathtub. But with the brutality that is so typical of childhood ‘innocence,’ I helped make Old Man Tim a monster.  

Friday, May 6, 2011


Do you have a favorite creation? I do. I've written countless poems and narratives over the years, but for some reason, my favorite is "In Memoriam," a poem I wrote a few months ago and published on my blog. I love this poem because of the love I put into it. Each word, each image was carefully chosen in order to illustrate an experience too beautiful to bury in abstraction and cliché. In the end, the piece "worked" for me, but I had no idea whether anyone else would appreciate it. I'm flattered that there are people out there who do. Check out the poem on Bolts of Silk, and while you're at it, explore the fantastic collection of poetry from around the world that Crafty Green Poet has anthologized there:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May is Short Story Month

Do you read short stories?

I enjoy reading them for the same reason I like poetry. I'm amazed at how writers of either genre can manipulate language so meticulously, often down to the morphemes, jam-packing their brief works with rich images and ideas. Short story writers as varied as Herman Melville, Junot Diaz, Jamaica Kincaid and Milan Kundera astound me with their ability to develop a character so thoroughly in so few pages.

Who do you/have you read? Which short stories have endured in your mind over the years? Do you write short stories? If so, where can one read them?

May is Short Story Month. In honor of this event, I have set a goal of writing at least one short story this month. It's in progress - stay tuned. I also challenge YOU to write a short story and publish it online in May, either on your own blog, or as a guest post here (just let me know; I'd be delighted). Additionally, please write me if you encounter any excellent short stories during this month or anytime - I'm always on the lookout for new reading.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Funny People #1

I’ll never be the funny one – in the family, in the relationship, among my friends, or in the workplace. I’ve come to accept my position in life as the object of the jokes and not the joker. However, I appreciate the humor in others, and I like to surround myself with funny people, particularly those who are funny without effort. One of these amusing characters is my mother. She's here on a visit now, and I can't get enough of her personality. When I'm with her, it's never long before I'm shaking violently with one of those so-hard-I-almost-peed laughs. Here are a few reasons why.
Her Cuban accent: When she wants me to pay attention, she orders me to “Fuck us, Nadya. You must try to fuck us.”
Her colorful idiomatic expressions: 
Concéntrate, mojón de gato. Translation: Concentrate, piece of cat shit.
Yo no soy peo que aguanta calzoncillos. Translation: I’m not the sort of fart that can be held back by underwear.
¡Porque me salió de la papaya! Translation: [Why did I do that?] Because it came out of my vagina, that’s why!
The Magic Wand: When I started attending my first dances at fifteen, my mother sat me down and warned me about what she'd dubbed the Magic Wand (an adolescent boy's erection, caused by irresponsibly close dancing). Before each dance, my mother kissed me, traced the sign of the cross on my forehead, and then whispered ominously, “Beware the Magic Wand!” She frightened me so thoroughly that for the next two years, I maintained more than a Bible’s length distance from my dance partners, afraid of being poked by their deleterious wands.
The Senior Citizen Conundrum: My mother unabashedly asks for the “senior discount” everywhere she goes, but she gives the evil eye and the arthritic middle finger to anyone who dares refer to her by those cursed words: senior citizen.
My Mom Keeps it Real: A few years ago, my mother began asking me to teach her American slang words and bits of pop culture. She wanted to speak the language of the young folks, to keep it real. A few favorites:
Mullet.  My mother now notices mullets everywhere she goes: “Ooh look! There’s a mullet! Business in the front….wait, wait, don’t tell me…I know this…Oh! Party in the back! Right?”
She is tore up from the floor up! My mother likes to say this while people-watching at Wal-Mart.
Vibrators. “Do those things really work? Um, actually, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know, and I don’t want to know if you know.”
Lady Gaga. “I like her! I don’t care if she’s a hermaphrodite. IS she a hermaphrodite? Not that there’s anything wrong with that….”

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sunday (Monday?) Confessional

It's technically Monday here, but it is still Sunday night to me. I have an inexplicable urge to scribble my confessions right now, to secure them with one cathartic click of the "Publish Post" button and hurl them into the blue. Honestly, I'm not sure why it matters. Lately I recall that blog is a 4-letter word, after all. Why must I do it? What, if anything, do I hope to gain? Perhaps I'm writing in hope that someone across the virtual sea will find this bottle and "get me," or perhaps some part of me wishes to record my narcissistic musings in order to re-read them years later and laugh at my puerile notions and awful writing. In either case, this is all rather self-centered. But hey, people are but animals, and animals are selfish bastards by nature.

At any rate, tonight I confess, not sins, but torments, to the Universe:

1. I'm never going to read every book I'd like to read (Duh, right?). This is a truth which causes me irrational but immense anguish.

2. I frequently prefer books to people. Sometimes I don't answer your call because I'm reading. I often disregard the demands of my job, my spouse, my family and friends to spend an evening in rapt conversation with a book. I’m not exactly penitent about this; however, at times I wish I wanted to be less detached.

3. Lately I recognize that half of me, the part that thinks and dreams and speaks en Español, el idioma de mis padres, del hogar de mi juventud, is drowning in a sea of American dreams. I’m terrified at how much of me I’ve lost already. When I lose half of my words, half of myself, who will I be? How will I find the language to sing the sorrow of losing my language?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Girl in the Red Apron - a memory

The girl in the red apron
And the don’t-fuck-with-me combat boots
Bears five searing plates
Atop the webs of veins and scars
That line her outstretched arms.

As she effortlessly ambles
Toward her party of inebriated bikers,
Three dozen one-dollar bills
And a letter from her lover,
Scrawled on a Juicy Fruit wrapper,
Burn hopeful holes in her apron pocket.

Monday, April 11, 2011

On Hope and Robots

Under weight of woolen sweater sky,
Through streets that stab and scrape my limbs
with jagged fingernails,
Passing drapes and dead-bolts
and Do Not Enter entryways,
Amid the throngs of automatons
who do not read poetry
and cannot make love without batteries
My heart still ticks inside its brittle cage of bone
And pigeons hum the same primordial verse
As I recall that Hope did not escape Pandora’s jar.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The God of Liminal Space

There is a god of liminal space:
Of the black between stars
And the white that muzzles wayward verbs
Of the space between the right lie
And the wrong truth
And the time before that which we remembered
To remember.

This god of threshold
Is no unfeeling Olympian
Nor a martyr for our deliverance.
This god neither confers nor confiscates
But merely roosts atop our tongues and toes
In anticipation of anticipation.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Solipsist

A wary solipsist
has no place in church,
saloon or shopping mall –
though she cannot be sure.
Her only haven
is her goose-pimpled skin,
The only clarion call she heeds,
a snarling belly.  
She trusts the counsel 
of her throbbing wrists
and sage fingertips,
but she cannot place faith
in ephemeral scars.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

When I dream about him

She should be unhappy, but I am not guilty and therefore cannot be unhappy.

– from Anna Karenina

The most vivid dreams happen on the weekend, cheating me of much-anticipated R &R. I wake up gasping at six o’clock in the morning. I apologize loudly, to no one in particular, for the disruptive behavior of my excessively imaginative unconscious.  I pull the aptly-named blanket – the comforter – over the sweat beads on my chest and neck, over my feral, panicked eyes and crumpled brow.  I feign indulgent weekend slumber for a few more hours.
At ten-thirty I reluctantly put on a shirt and brave the fifteen-foot trek to the living room. I scan my surroundings, searching for a sign that my emergence from bed today was in fact a mistake. Yesterday’s soup congeals in a bowl on the floor near the couch. My terrier gives it a few inquisitive sniffs before deciding, like me, that it is hardly worth the effort.
A bra and a raincoat dangle from a wooden chair.  Yellow daylight streams in through the window, illuminating the world map of stains on my dingy carpet. I quickly shut the blind. A spider edges along the side of my bookshelf. I give it a ten-second head start before mashing it thoroughly with a copy of Anna Karenina. I briefly muse that the spider is a despondent Anna, and the book a speeding train.

And in that same instant she was horrified at what she was doing. 'Where am I? What am I doing? Why?' She wanted to rise, to throw herself back, but something huge and implacable pushed at her head and dragged over her. 'Lord forgive me for everything!' she said, feeling the impossibility of any struggle.
I put on the bra without taking off my shirt. I amble to the bathroom and take a pair of jeans out of the hamper. I wrestle my belligerent hair into a ponytail and shove my neon purple-socked feet into a pair of boots. I forget the raincoat. I always forget the raincoat.
I drive hastily through the blinding rain. I know where I’m going. I head to the only three places sure to deaden the lingering sensation of another nightmare. First, to my favorite Mexican fast food restaurant, where I order an enormous smothered burrito and a large Coke, to be ravenously consumed in my car at a nearby park as the rain drums my windshield. Next, to the bakery, where I purchase two chocolate chip cookies, which I eat slowly and deliberately at Destination Number Three: the clothing store. In the dressing room, as I twirl around in gorgeous spring dresses under flattering artificial light, I am at least ten glorious hours away from the specters of my nighttime psyche.   

I buy two dresses and wear one at home as I clean my apartment.

I spend the rest of the day convincing myself that it was Levin, not Anna, who had it right all along.  

'...but my life now, my whole life, regardless of all that may happen to me, every minute of it, is not only not meaningless, as it was before, but has the unquestionable meaning of the good which it is in my power to put into it!'

The world in haiku

Armageddon gives way to
Genesis each day
As carbon begets carbon.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Biggie and Tupac meet at a bar in heaven

Dear God – wait. That’s not right. I think I used to say, Our Father, who art in heaven. You know, start with the Lord’s Prayer and then attempt to weave that elegant primordial verse into my own prosaic like, so it’s been a really long time since we’ve talked, but um…

Anyway, it’s been so long I can’t remember how I should begin. But I figure you know better than I do, being God and all. So I’ll skip to the heart of the matter.
Shit. Which is the heart of the matter? Sorry I said shit. Just gathering my thoughts, you know. Although I’m sure you know my thoughts already, which always makes this weirder for me.
I think I’d like to begin by saying that this time it’s for real. I’d really like to talk. Not just talk and then drift off to sleep mid-confession or grumble a few hasty words over the lasagna I’d rather be eating than blessing. No, I’m ready for that heart-to-heart if you are. I need some fatherly advice.
Yeah, I know. You don’t have all night and I’ve wasted your time many times over. Remember the night in the third grade, when I begged you to give me straight hair like the gringas in my class? Or the time in the seventh grade, when I whispered no less than one hundred Acts of Contrition after weeks of frequent pubescent…um… self-discovery? Or when I asked to meet Puff Daddy and become his next baby momma? Or when, like Cain with the porridge (Was it porridge? Can’t remember), I offered you my first born child in exchange for some momentary relief from menstrual cramps?
 I still think it would have been cool if you had let me at least meet Puff Daddy, but whatever. You know best, I suppose. How’s Biggie doing, by the way? Does he ever bump into Tupac at the local bar up there? Right, dumb question. I'm rambling again.
Anyway, this isn’t one of those Give me a sign that he’s the one entreaties, or another of my infamous I know I fucked this one up but now you gotta help me get out of it appeals. Not exactly, anyway. You see, life is quite wonderful these days. I mean, I still haven’t met P-Diddy or anything, but generally I can’t complain.
Still – well, you know. I’m lonely. And I guess I’m just asking you to say something for once.
So say something already.

A Gift

This is all I have to offer today. This song isn't mine to confer on anyone, but I have given it once or twice, at a roadside speckled with crabgrass, dandelions, and Budweiser bottles. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

100 Words: Sunday Venus

On a Sunday afternoon, I stand naked before the bathroom mirror as the four o’clock sunlight pours through slits in the window blinds, painting stripes across my glossy skin. I’ve slept away the week’s calamities and traded To Do lists for doing nothing, and for a fantastic fraction of time I am divinity made flesh. Onyx curls frame olive skin and contend with mahogany eyes for center stage. Each arc, each slope of shoulder, breast, and hip becomes an unmapped Eden, an unsung epic, until –  a hoary tendril, a traitorous wrinkle, a jagged scar proclaims this goddess a mere mortal.

Itinerant Seed

Last night I was a restless seed
Raring to leave the mother tree.
I dove into the swirling zephyr,
Floating carelessly over sleeping parishes
And wakeful woodland beasts,
But the morning rain sent me tumbling
Into the frigid arms of an unfeeling river,
And I bobbed atop its turbid waves,
Passing willowy cattails and
Auburn blurs of geese,
Until a merciful evening gale
Propelled me toward a muddy bank
Where I could rest my battered shell.
I had drifted off to dream of home
When an eagle stirred me from my slumber
And bade me ride upon her talon,
As it was too soon, she warned, to take root.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I've been busy helping others find their words

I haven't blogged much in the last few weeks. Today someone inquired about my absence from the blogosphere, causing me to consider the following:

1. People actually read my awful writing from time to time. Poor bastards.
2. If the best you poor bastards can do with your down time is read this nonsense, then I suppose I'd better deliver. ;)

An update:

Since October I have spent most of my waking hours at the high school where I work as a student teacher, coaching students with their writing. I have immersed myself in teaching, creating a workshop environment in my classroom and conducting feedback sessions with dozens of students before school, during my lunch break, during my planning period, and after school. At home I have pored over student papers, scrawling comments in the margins as I munch on pizza or Chinese food - who has time to cook?

I finish student teaching tomorrow, and tonight I find myself reflecting on how helping my students find their words has taught me innumerable lessons about language.

A few of those lessons:

1. Anyone can write. One only needs fair access to words.
2. The only cure for writer's block is writing.
3. We make much of words, of their power to create and destroy. But punctuation and white space are also potent forces which writers must learn to manipulate with care.
4. Writers must take their own advice. I frequently notice that my own writing improves when I consciously employ the strategies I teach my students. For me, good writing is not innate. Sometimes I write well and often I write poorly. On those days when the words cannot find me, I work more deliberately to find the words. I'm often surprised that my best writing does not occur naturally but purposefully. Mind you, this is not one of those days, and I am in no mood to heed my own instruction. :)

While I've enjoyed (nearly) every minute of student teaching, I look forward to moving on next week. For the next few months, I'll be interviewing for jobs, catching up on sleep, and of course, blogging for poor bastards with nothing better to do than read my crap.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Another Sunday Confessional

I am becoming exactly what I always wanted to be when I grew up. That doesn't happen for many people; I should feel blessed. I do feel blessed. But today I dream of the days when I had nothing, owned nothing, but nebulous dreams.

I remember a seventeen year-old Nadya, napping in a corner booth of the diner in between double shifts. I remember sleeping soundly, pleased with the morning's tips, which I would dutifully save in my college fund on my day off. I remember the euphoria and despair of young love, feverish first kisses and violent heartbreaks. I remember pimples and bad hair days and fashion blunders and chuckle at the realization that time does not alter everything.

I remember forceful encounters with mortality. I remember dying. I remember the hand that pulled me from hell and the mouth that breathed cool air into my burning lungs. I remember the crushing gratitude and elation I felt when I'd been given a second life. I remember decisively setting out to deserve it.

I remember the pang of - something - which reminded me that I'd left someone behind, buried among the mort and rubble. I remember jam-packing my new life with enough distractions to muffle each twinge. It almost worked. Except, of course, for the fact that I still remember.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Is it so final?
Are we to entrench ourselves
In unforgiving earth,
Piteously compliant
Like wretched elms,
Mindlessly motionless,
Fettered by our own roots,
Subject to the whims
Of sun and moon,
Induced to live and die
And cast off our leaves
As spiteful seasons would please?
I pray for the axe
To pierce my side at last
And make me a kindling
A stage for dancing flames.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A body at rest

I drink delicious nothing
Tumble fearlessly
Into the turbulent blue
Lean in brazenly
To kiss a mount of feathers.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Argument

This is my first sonnet and likely my last! I enjoy sonnets. I love to read them aloud and savor the sounds. I can spend hours taking apart a sonnet and examining each piece. But I learned today that I hate writing sonnets. I find them agonizingly restrictive and I can't seem to adhere to all the rules. I think that life is painful enough without adding sonnet-writing to the mix. :) Anyway, here is my attempt. Better to have tried and failed, right?

The Argument

My kingdom for a clever word to launch
At cunning men that to my ears lay siege,
I struggle for an argument to staunch
The rhetoric that passes through the sieve.
I wade through mire of pomposity
Assailed by beasts of unforgiving bog,
Not unaware of my complicity
In the creation of this verbal fog.
Who shall emerge when reason breaks the day
With rays of sense to penetrate the mist?
Will morning sun illuminate my way
Or light upon a target for their fists?
Perchance the true victor is she or he
Whose placid wisdom must needs wordless be.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Adam's mom just died of cancer. Jenny's mother sits in prison for beating and molesting her children. Jenny will testify against her in court next week. Maggie was up late last night tending to her two-year-old. Jerome works nights at the Wal-Mart to help his dad with the rent. Tommy has a black eye and a fat lip this morning -  someone branded him a "faggot" last week. Suzie's parents practically live at the law firm; she hasn't seen them in days.

We tell them to write. We tell them language is freedom. We omit half the truth. The other half:

Words are but words
Dreams are but dreams
Our words cannot fair the unfair
They can only preach and prattle
and haggle over taxi fare

Or they can scream.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Placed on Hold by the Suicide Hotline

Before my Mami met my Papi and created a brood of big-nosed children with him, she worked as a telephone operator at a hospital in Miami. One night she received a call from a man who wished to speak with someone about his suicidal thoughts. My mother tried to transfer the man to the hospital's suicide hotline. Mami was surprised when the hotline representative placed her on  hold before she could get a word out. They put suicidal people on hold? she thought. She was more stunned when she heard the on-hold music: Peter and Gordon's "A World without Love" was playing on the Muzak station. People called this suicide hotline to be talked out of offing themselves and the hotline not only "experienced high call volumes," it also played a song which featured the refrain, "I don't care what they say / I won't stay in a world without love." Brilliant. :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I don’t know what it is
Except that it is
And I do –
Very much.

I cannot quantify the much
Or illustrate the is
Except to say
It’s a great deal –
I think.

Still, betimes
I thought I did
Only to learn
That I did not –
So much.

And while it is
And I do –
I think –
I must disclose
The difficulty in defending
An indiscernible is. 

I mean this very much.