Red wine stains her lips--
another year, gone
"Time is relative," she tells herself,
pours another glass.
"A year is a just a rock orbiting the sun at blinding speed."
She can imagine her hair blowing back with the force of Earth's orbit.
"You're drunk," someone(more) laughs.
Outside her mind the cosmos turns
in its infinite patterns
Stars die at their own pace, the planets turn according to science,
or else the imagination of a vast, unknowable god.
The wine is tart--her nails clink on the glass
The human year is over.
What has she completed now that she hasn't before?
"You fell in love," says someone, but who, she cannot say.
Yes, but somewhere a galaxy is born and her feelings diminish
"You got promoted!" Of course, but two years ago she did too.
"It's almost midnight." The stars burn, lonely
She closes her eyes and sees the turning of the galaxies
"HAPPY NEW YEAR!"
Warm wine sloshes down her chest. Laughter rises.
She opens her eyes and sees the universe condense to this moment here--
the stars in the eyes of the man who loves her
he wipes off her dress and in the moment a sun is born
"Welcome back," he says,
how far she has traveled. (less)
There was a new girl in our class, a girl named Urgyi. It was a strange, foreign name, and for good reason--she was the first alien to attend our school. To her face, of course, we never called her "alien." Etheroni was the accepted term.
(more) We had all seen Etheroni on screen before, of course. When we first made contact with them it was all anyone could talk about for a solid month. The UN and NASA suddenly had a lot more power, and after ten years the first humans went to Etheron and the first aliens came here. Five years after that, Urgyi showed up at our International Academy of Arts and Sciences.
None of us talked to Urgyi much. She spoke very good English, but seemed to have no concept of pronouns or individual identity. We had learned about Etheron's extreme collectivism in class, but seeing it was something else. She didn't understand why we had desks or pencils, or why you couldn't eat the grass or sleep in trees.
She didn't really have many friends. No one knew how to relate to her--what similar experiences could a relationship be based on? She came from a world of ice and rock light-years away, and we were fat on the wealth of our parents and the riches of our planet. When she left at the end of the year our school got a medal from the UN. None of us could spell Urgyi's name. (less)
We go on walks in the dark blue dawn and when we stop by the bay to watch the sun rise, I feel myself open to you, my soul huddled and trembling at your feet. Do you do the same for me?
I wish you would speak t(more)o me with sincerity. Tell me what you think. Tell me about the moment you became fully yourself, like a a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. Tell me what you think about late at night. Tell me what you think of me. Speak candidly--do you love me?
When the sun rises we go our separate ways--home for a quick nap and breakfast, then to opposite ends of the city for work. When the sun rises I hold my aching heart in my hands and watch you, and I still do not know the answer to my question. (less)
I am a ghost in this world. My conscious hovers, untouched by pain and sorrow. The world filters through my mind in a series of facts, bright points of color, dust between my fingers.
My senses have diminished to touch and hearing. I feel the tears of loved(more) ones on my skin, the prick of IV needles puncturing my veins. This all has no meaning to me. I measure my days by the sounds that come and go--weeping, pleading, muttering nurses and scolding doctors and finally the silence of night, broken every so often by the marching-band snap of the night nurse's heels on the tile.
Really, being in a coma is good for the mind. Now, far removed from the grime of life, I move about the caverns of my mind, dusting and organizing. What were once messy storage closets are now organized cabinets of memory and sensation. Light emanates from an unseen sun, and I peruse my memories and thoughts.
My once-family enters again, the soft hands of my son squeezing my fingers. I know that he is too young for this, and in an objective way I wish I could communicate, but the door between my mind and the world outside is closed tight. I can only wait.
"We've decided...to let him go," says my once-wife. Her voice is soft but determined. Randomly, I remember her eyes--soft blue, like the sky after spring rain. I file the memory away.
They leave and I wander the halls of my mind, alone but not lonely. I feel the needles being pulled, the sensors being pulled off my skin. It becomes clear to me that I am about to die. The thought does not bother me.
A door opens in front of me. I go through it, not looking back. (less)
It was a ship full of murderers. One-Eyed Kent, who killed ten women and fled the country before he could be caught; Shiny Penny, who looks fifteen but claims to be twenty, murdered her father.; Al, who hangs rats by their tails and drinks poison to build up his(more) immunity. The only thing that held his violent bunch together was the promise of gold.
The New World would have gold, they all knew. They had heard the stories that trickled back over the long months between expeditions. The dark-skinned barbarians who bathed in the blood of white men and wore gold shoes and hats. They knew they would have what it took to kill and steal. Shiny Penny already had a bit of gold that she took from her father--a gold coin. After supper, when the moon reflected on the water and the boat rocked steadily like a long-forgotten cradle, she would take it out and toss it in the air over and over. The men would watch entranced, falling asleep to the lullaby of gold.
But storms came and went, and the ship wanders, lost. The gold seems far away now, and large sections of the map are left blank. As priorities shift from gold and glory to food and water, relationships begin to form among the killers. The cook gives Al extra water every day, thanking him for keeping the ship free of rats. Thomas the Mute grew up by the sea and can catch fish. Shiny Penny is learning from him. One-Eyed Kent tells stories of beautiful women. He doesn't name them, but everyone knows that he killed them.
They also know that once land is sighted, the friendships will dissolve. Al will poison the cook, Shiny Penny will stab grown men. They only thirst for gold. (less)
It was evening on the beach, and cold. Farther down the sand was a family comprised of mostly young children. From so far away their screeches of joy sounded like seagulls.
My hands were burned and raw from the sun and the inner lining of my bikini bottom(more) sagged slightly, filled with damp sand. It was an uncomfortable feeling. Eliza was drinking vodka in a travel coffee mug and wearing a green sundress. Her hair had dried in stiff, salty waves and it looked horrible. I'm sure mine looked worse.
Florida was nothing like our expectations--sure, there were hot beach parties and hot guys and hot sun, but graduate school was hard and we ended up spending most of our time indoors studying. We had both come from New England, and the never-ending summertime had become boring. I dreamed about the crisp tang of fall in the air, the brilliant burst of red leaves against the sky.
Eliza tried to be positive. "I got a good tan today," she told me, pulling her dress' neckline down so I could see the contrast of her pale skin with her suntan. She was so dark it was almost orange. "And the sunset--Look, Janie, it's gorgeous."
"Just another sunset," I replied morosely. The orange color of the sky mocked me--a long time ago and very far away, at this time of year the leaves were the same color.
In an hour the tide would creep up and nip my toes, salty bathwater leaving salt-stains behind on my pedicure. I was in Florida, living the dream, but even paradise is pedantic. (less)
"You only have one spoon," Carson hollered from the kitchen.
Frick. Olivia pressed her fingers on the bridge of her nose in despair. This whole evening was supposed to be over already, but of course, that hadn't happened--the toilet stopped working, she had forgotten to buy pasta sauce(more) for the dinner, and now there weren't enough spoons to eat the ice cream (the last-minute desert choice).
"We'll have to share," Carson yelled again.
"No way in hell," Olivia shot back. "Just forget the ice cream. I think I have some vodka in the cabinet."
"Geez, *sister,*" Carson muttered with a nasty inflection. "It's not my fault you hate me."
"I don't hate you," Olivia said reflexively, but both she and Carson knew that wasn't true. Ever since her dad had remarried and become Carson's dad, she had been filled with simmering rage.
Carson came in with two mugs of vodka. "I couldn't find any glasses, so we had to use these trashy things."
Olivia tried to focus on her kneecaps instead of Carson's face. "I'm only doing this for dad," she told him.
Carson grinned crookedly and lifted up his mug in a mock toast. "I'm doing this for mom. You know, appease the annoying first child."
She wanted to rip his head off. "You know what? If your skank mom hadn't come in and ruined everything, I'd still be the first child. I'd be the only child. I wouldn't have to deal with dad suddenly fawning over you."
"God, sorry," Carson muttered. "And don't talk about mom like that. She actually does love dad, you know."
Olivia knew that was true, but she still took a huge gulp of vodka and prayed that she would forget this all in the morning. She just wanted things the way they were. (less)
i remember when aliens first started appearing in popular culture. there were horror movies about them, and plastic toys for kids, and my younger brother said, with shining eyes, that he wanted to become an astronaut and fight aliens.
(more) when i was a kid i wanted to be a cowboy, the ultimate modern hero, wrangling the wild wild west with nothing but a rope and a hope. now, the game had changed, and the frontier to be tamed was no longer the Great Plains of the west, but the great stars of the sky. scientists told us there were other planets, and other stars with other planets, and other galaxies, and the brave men who went out from earth were the newest generation of great explorers.
my younger brother is not at all surprised to hear that men have landed on the moon and walked there, but it still seems strange to me, a bit unnatural. the moon controlled the tides and stabilized the planet and we had stepped on it. i guess i thought that every spaceship lift off symbolized that we were gods among beasts, traversing the stars, the new modern heroes. (less)
The bastard angel was banned from heaven. Hers was a long a tragic tale of lies and loss, and she told it to the wind on lonely afternoons, the sunbeams cold on her back, the powdered white clouds below billowing up and sinking down like so many snowflakes.
Below her was the heathen earth, where the air smelled funny and the people were small and quarrelsome. Above her was the forbidden land, where bejeweled birds ate candied fruit from the upturned palms of glorious creatures. The bastard angel lived in the in-between land, the perfect purgatory of silent cloud and lonely sky.
At night she nested on a high perch of cloud and watched for the gateway to appear, a burning circle of stars in the endless sky. She watched the angels with flaming swords as they circled the gate, guarding it, their holy fury brighter than the thousands of stars around them. The white-gold stars stared down coldly at the bastard angel, judging her for her crimes, and when she cried the tears fell down to the pagan earth and filled the cups of beggars. (less)
In the very early fall she understood religion. It was a Tuesday, a cold October morning, with a crisp snap to the air. Her class was at eight and she was walking across the quad. She looked down at her feet, in the same dirty sneakers she's had for(more) years, and thought about crime and family and God, and she understood.
She was a gender studies major and it almost infuriated her that there had to be such a major, that one of her required courses was The Exploitation of Women in Media, and once she understood religion she prayed every day for a renaissance of the human race. It did not happen, or else it happened so slowly at the molecular level that she could not see it.
She did not come from a religious house. Her father muttered incantations to a God of carnality-- "Oh God, baby"--but he did not say these things to his wife, who muttered weepy prayers to a vengeful God, trying to atone for her past sins of bullying an autistic boy in high school. She grew up with this violent, American-movie God, a god of guns and girls and sex and sacrifice.
On that cold Tuesday morning, trekking across the quad to Genders in Marketing 101, she watched the yellowing leaves bob their heads to her, and understood God. She understood religion, the need for safety in something all-powerful, omniscient. She thought about her father's God of pleasure and her mother's God of pain, and understood that neither worked, that neither God would bring about the renaissance of the human spirit or give her peace in her mind. (less)
she scrubbed her skin red raw
so maybe she could get rid of the memory of his hands
hot and heavy on her skin, her arms
she wanted to take the washcloth to her brain too
scrub out the curves and corners of her gray matter
(more) clean herself pure again
the white flaky ashes of shame swirling
down the shower drain (less)
changed a lot since mom left
he keeps old furniture in there now
spiders live in the old armchair that was mom's
tools that are no longer used rust away
and open containers of gasoline stain the old rug
(more) inside dad watches Seinfeld on VHS and
cooks beans and soup in the microwave
on holidays i visit him
bearing gifts of ham and mashed potatoes
he plays a scratched CD:
"TUNES FOR CHRISTMAS"
i tell him that No dad, it's Easter
on his good days he bakes cookies
and we share a beer on the porch
he asks me about my job
mom and her new man live
in one of the big houses at the edge of town
their garage painted white
with a ferrari and
spiders are not welcome there
and gasoline is stored in stylish metal cans
painted with flowers
on the fourth of july
american flags flutter
the neighbors come for corn-on-the-cob and bbq
moms new man wears a kiss the cook apron
"i hope your father's doing well," she says
like she had never married him, had a child with him, broken him
i tell her about his cookies
and yes he still watches Seinfeld
on her good days she kisses me
with cherry red lipstick
and tells me that the divorce was the hardest thing she ever did
and asks me Is my old armchair still at his house
one day Others come, outsiders with no knowledge of us or the way we think.
they will observe those with More spit on those with Less, and that those of this Color do not talk to those of that Color. these Others will look on (more)as those of this Belief determine that their god is not love but hate and rage against those of another Belief.
they will visit the children, the young ones--perhaps in these innocent untouched minds there will be purity. but no. those boys who like Girls harass the boy who likes Boys. the Pretty girl casts snide comments like a net around the Average girl. the small children shove each other and fight instead of share.
these Others will only know this of us. they will go to their home and tell their fellow Others: here is a quarrelsome and violent race.
why are they like that? asks an Other
the Others think
they are only divided by the walls in their minds (less)