Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fiction, happy rejections, and a poem

Sometimes an e-mail will bring a pleasant surprise like the one I received earlier this week informing me my 2nd chapbook would be published.  More often than not, the e-mails are the standard rejections with the occasional but increasingly rare, personal note attached.  Yesterday I got an e-mail from Carve ( a literary magazine) announcing the winners in its fiction competition.  At some point I must have sent something to this publication or I wouldn't be on their mailing list.
   First prize went to Liesl Wilke's short story, "Stalled Symphony" which is set in the stalls of a women's restroom in a shopping mall.  It must have been the shock value or novelty of the theme that made it the winning entry though there was nothing the least bit novel about the story except its location.  And because it's a women's bathroom, there is nothing illicit or interesting happening like the footsie or outright sex you might find in a men's room.  Just bodily functions.  Can a writer get away with that?  What happened to the idea of conflict or resolution?  In this story there's a bulemic girl and an obese woman among others in the various stalls though nothing original happens to any of them.  Maybe if they'd gotten together it would have been more appealing.  Maybe the editors thought the theme would be enough to get a reader's attention so I guess in that, they succeeded.  Glancing through the runners up, I didn't find anything that stood out as great writing. 
   Whatever I may have sent to Carve, I'm glad it got rejected!

One of the Latvian ladies- I'm moving past the story...

Apolonia Painted 

We pointed out the flaws,
Look, a dog as big as a house
in the background,
no perspective here,
But Apolonia painted
and danced,
Her wig askew
after vodka shots,
Apolonia painted
and promised love.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Neptunian Dreamworld

Descent into the oceanic dreamworld.  A fuzzy space where I think I’m doing everything the way I do in my usual orderly slightly anal fashion only to discover that though I think I have, it’s not true.  Case in point- I was outside of the city for an interview last Wednesday armed with maps, papers, schedules, only to discover I had a Saturday bus schedule in a territory with blocks that stretched seemingly for miles and almost no way out.  Two days I’ve mixed up schedules for the TOEFL testing online that I do.  By luck I was checking my e-mail yesterday and discovered I was supposed to be working. Missed a meeting at my other job.  Sent a letter with no stamp.  I keep repeating the same poems on this blog.  How is this happening?  The list goes on.
   Fuzziness- a Neptunian transit to everything in my chart or menopause?  Hard to say.  I want to put a big post it over my desk- Pay attention!  Now! 
    The other side of fuzziness is a vague love of everything.  I’m enjoying my teaching immensely (for however long that lasts).  A roomful of students from 20-75 (the older ones I call the lifers) from about 14 different countries and I am happy with simplicity.  My idea is that calendars, weather, and goals can give them a hold on life. In that contained world it may be enough.  I used to teach university students so I am sometimes surprised this is enough.
I love the green of the park, the last of the summer sun touching my skin.  I love this life stripped of so much of the activity and excitement that once defined it.  So, for however long it lasts-  love this summer stretching into fall.

An old poem.  Am going through files. 

Sun and Moon Struggle

The sun and the moon struggle
on opposing sides of the sky
which tugs more
orange red dissolution
or the slow silver dance?

Full moon morrow,
my own wars
like the world's multiply.

No remorse,
I still search for a pen,
delight in floral innocence,
and in what brings the body
a smile.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Apples and gifts from the sky

Years ago when I was studying Spanish, the teacher asked us to describe our favorite fruit.It was one of those typical language exercises.  A German girl praised apples - their crispness, the satisfying texture and their taste .  It struck me as pedestrian to talk about such a common fruit.  I went on about the sticky sweetness of mangos which at the time were the ultimate in exotic. 
Years later I agree with her.  Apples caused the fall from Eden; in the 15th century William Tell shot one off the head of his son.  Cliches and sayings about apples abound.  I started to appreciate them in Spain where the tasty ones were grown for export but the ones in the shops were mealy and dry.  Golden delicious were ubiquitous and Granny Smiths were just starting to be imported.
   Now, an apple is a welcome gift from my refugee students,possibly my favorite since an apple embodies appreciation and utility all at once.  In Varysburg, I stand among the gnarled neglected apple trees on the edge of our farmland and remember a line from a poem - "all flavors of red."  The trees still produce small imperfect specimans in abundance.  This is in return for nothing that I provide (well, I could function as a vehicle for transporting seeds but I have ignored this orchard for decades).  In this world there are still gifts that fall from the sky.


No strangers appear in that life
and we are the crazy Russians
on the hill,
enough to deliver us
from the rural town-
gas station, hotel, store in pairs.
Here in safety
golden fruit,
perfectly formed,
droops in bounty.
Blossoms brush my window,
daylight hypnotizes a hawk
hiding in the branches.
Apple trees provide
pink blush, green, all flavors of red.
And goldfish last
slumbering through long winters
in the pond,
where today
my uncle reflects sunlight,
imagining his cold gray sea.
The children of angels now,
my mother wears a dark blue suit,
instead of apron and headscarf.
We fly over the mountaintops of Crete
and lunch on city walkways
My father reappears as general
and still brings shivers.

There on the hill we tangoed
to the record player
after clearing fields of rocks.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Inukshuks and finding my way home

On my last trip up to Canada on the northern highway which was cut through stone, there were little piles of stones perched on the rock set up on the sides of the road. After seeing many and wondering what they were, I asked my Canadian relatives.  "Inuk" means person and "suk" means substitute in Inuit languages and the rocks are piled on each other to create an abstract form of a person.  These forms have become a symbol of Canada and were used as the 2010 winter olympics logo.  Inuits used them as markers in areas that didn't have many natural landmarks. Markers could show the location of routes, sacred sites, and food caches but now everyone seems to want to leave one behind. 
    For more information from Wikipedia:

My own idea of direction and what shows the way:
Finding My Way Home

The Hmong bury placenta,
close to home.
Danger rises in direct proportion
to their distance from it.

The Navajo began
the long march home
where each tree,
each stream tells the past.

The spot that fixes me
to the ground, floats.

Lost in the birches
and pines of the Baltic,
following the storks south,
to nest in the bell towers
of Castillian churches,
I´m finding my way home.