Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I wear them, mostly, I always have. Although I still remember my foray into a skirt. I was four years old, and more than anything in the world, I wanted to be a witch for Halloween. My parents, bless their hearts, did not try to stop me; my mother paid for my costume from Kresges Five and Dime. My Aunt Dorothy, who took care of me during the day, did tell me, mildly, “witches are girls,” but I was adamant in my conviction, witches were witches. If I’d had the vocabulary to articulate what I meant, I would have said that witches were beyond gender, perhaps pre-gender, a witch was not a girl, a witch was not a boy, the witch mask was so frightening I could barely stay in the same room with it, and at night I had to put it in my closet and close the door. I knew it gathered the shadows of winter coats unto itself and became something more, a thing of rustle, of teeth, and bony hands talking to themselves in the dark.

It’s a wonder I ever slept. The mask, wart-nosed, green. When I wore it, the elasticized string cut into the tender skin behind my ears. The accompanying skirt was snappy, short, and lemon yellow; I liked the way the waistband grabbed my waist and left blue indentations in my skin. I felt secure: my mask in place, I could look out from inside the witch, I could be the witch myself, and not have to see it. I inhaled the scent of plastic, and paste, my breath heavy and loud, wet around the mouth hole. And I was wearing a short yellow skirt, my cape patterned with crescent moons, and stars. I remember a wand, or was it a miniature broom? With my mask, and my wand, and my lemon yellow skirt, I had the power to summon every piece of candy in town.

I never had any interest in becoming a fairy princess, all pink and crepe, with sparkles. I wanted to be old, as old as tree roots, as old as stories. As old as the dark. In my little yellow skirt I was bright as the sun, my thin legs scabby with mosquito bites—I loved to test myself, to see how long I could be still, on the back porch in the evening, I’d watch a mosquito settle and prospect her spot. She’d inject me, and then, thrillingly, she swallowed, ingested. If I could stand the itch she’d become a red balloon. On wings the size of an eyelash she rose, and with no pause, no goodbyes, my blood in her belly, she took me away and she left me behind. Witchcraft.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Edith Wharton Sentences

I am back to working on a project I'd stalled out on, or at least stopped working on: The Edith Wharton Sentences.  After I read the New York Review of Books edition of New York Stories of Edith Wharton I went back through the volume and highlighted one sentence from each story  (sometimes from every page) that jumped out at me for some reason. Then I copied these sentences into a notebook, one at the top of every page. A couple years later, after I'd forgotten, on the whole, the context of the story of origin, I'd go to the notebook every few days, read one of the sentences, pick up my pen, take a breath and go, writing wherever my mind went and hoping to surprise myself. I liked the results enough that I told myself this would become an entire collection of short prose pieces, already grandly named "The Edith Wharton Sentences" (Now I think maybe I should make "sentence" singular.)  But as with many of my grand schemes I petered out along the way, even while thinking some of the results were quite good.  I always seem to let a new enthusiasm overtake an older one. Now I am going back, to polish these pieces, to make some new ones, and gosh darn it finish a whole project for once. I am even proclaiming this in a blog to make it more public. You all have my permission to hound me about it in a month. (:Hey McDonald, how's the Wharton thing coming?  You didn't quit again, did you? Quitter.) One of the first selections, after the jump.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An interview with me that one could listen to if one chose to do so

Thanks to Richard Fox for pointing out the link, and for Michael and Shelly for having me as a guest on Wordslingers in the first place.  It was a fun evening. I didn't even feel exposed and naked like this lady in the window. You can listen to the 2008 interview by clicking here and then paging down just a tad.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Parakeet

It was in a large bush in a park next to Navy Pier downtown. Darren pointed it out and I moved closer to it.  The whole flock of sparrows that had been in the bush also, all hopsome and chirping, flew away, leaving the parakeet behind. I moved closer, and though it hopped another few inches deeper into the bush, it did not fly away.  I spoke to it, the way I'd heard bird owners speak to their pets, and it tilted its head, listening.  I held out my hand, finger outstretched, imagining that it would come to me and I would save it.  But the parakeet did not jump onto my outstretched finger. It called, a call that seemed so familiar.  I realized it was the sound a sparrow makes, the parakeet had learned a new language. I hoped it would survive the winter. I hoped the sparrows continued to keep company with the yellow and lime green little guy. I thought about fitting in. I thought about adoption.  I thought about captivity, and escape, and the prices of freedom. I thought about how beautiful the small bird was, and also too the hundred sparrows around it, and I got on my bike and rode away.