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
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
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.