Snippet from an old notebook

I found this while sifting through my files:

" [A woman I used to know] only wears black and white, or black, or white. Always white stockings and high black pumps, even in summer.

" She is painful to look at--so, so thin, with a sharp nose and an aggressive mole on one side of her face. She combs most of her shoulder-length hair to the other side and then leans that way as if it's very heavy.

May 16, 2004 in snippets | Permalink | Comments (0)


Jewel Case Chanson

Small minds -- scattered,
Smothered and covered
With gin blossoms --
Can’t ever draw a big horizon.

For them it will always be
Mozart for morning coffee,
Even in the savage garden.
Even in the rainy season,

I imagine there’s still room
For squares like us
To court and spark
And be struck by lightning.

Come away with me, you
With the human soul
And Cole Porter songbook.
Let it be… naked.

We will never go back
To then, not after burning
The daze and pleasing
The tiger in the rain.

February 9, 2004 in dailiness, snippets | Permalink | Comments (0)


More from the Unwritten

Another passage the author was often not-writing concerned Gillamunde, the only child of the Duke-Governor of New Arden. Plump, pretty, bland, really, she is frequently underestimated.

What she wants is to have a role in the diplomacy the region desperately needs more of.

There's a scene—not quite a scene, maybe just a beat—where she is in a room, cool, with columns and marble and a big library table [I seem to have a thing for big tables]. She is wearing a red silk dress I've never seen on her before—I thought she only wore Alice blue.

The dress is quite plain, well-fitted in the bodice, with a full skirt. Gillamunde's hair has been artfully curled by her maid. We don't see her face—the scene is like a movie shot taken through a French door or around the edge of a screen of some kind. She moves between the table and another piece a furniture, perhaps a globe stand or a low bookcase. She's holding a letter or document of some kind.

I suspect it is the original copy of the treaty with the People. This document has been interpreted many times, and with each recopying and rewording has become quite diluted.

Gillamunde has spent the morning searching through her father's records to locate this original, which she now has read and taken notes on.

Her expression, if it could be seen, would be quite grave and her stepmother would tell her it was unbecoming. Her stepmother is not a bad woman, but she focuses on matters that exasperate Gillamunde. Even now Gillamunde realizes she will soon be called to the table for a meal she is too preoccupied to enjoy eating, much less keep her mind on a conversation studied in its lightness and lack of content.

What she is trying to decide is if it will be worth the consequence of absenting herself from luncheon, in order to draft a brief about the Treaty of Penfell's Chance. She decides that it will be worth it if her father reads her notes and takes warning.

The issues, as she sees them, are threefold. First, the Treaty is about to expire. Though generally believed to be for an indefinite term, the original document states clearly that the agreement would be dissolved after the passage of 224 years. This would put the Treaty's expiration in the early part of next year—just a few months away.

Second, for the Treaty to be renewed, the current tribal leader and both his father and his oldest child must be present, to ensure that that all the generations are heard from. This could prove difficult as the People have sent their prince out of the Wilderness and no one is exactly sure where he is now.

Third, and this would take a bit of explaining, the folk of New Arden were daily breaking the laws governing the use of the delfinor meadows. Too many bundles of delfinor sprigs were being cut and delfinor was being cultivated in greenhouses as well, which was strictly prohibited. Rumor had it the King was interested in exporting the tea in addition to the dye and that he was setting up a commission to study whether there was a comercial use for the roots of the plant, as well as the leaves and berries.

Any and all of these enfringements gave the People grounds for war.



July 26, 2003 in snippets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



It was absurdly simple, the idea that if you wrote a page a day that in a year you would have accumulated enough pages to make a book.

Absurdly simple, but each day a page didn't get written. This went on for 21 days, or perhaps years. The unwritten pages amounted to over twenty books. More than 700,000 pages. They were a heavy burden for our author.

Things got better the day she decided to throw the twenty unwritten books in the trash.

This was difficult — how do you discard what doesn't exist? There were no physical pages to tear out of notebooks or virtual ones to delete from a data file. Even "the trash" had to be made out of metaphor.

The pages possessed their own reality, however. She'd "written" them in her mind, driving the car, wind in her hair, words unfurling. The narratives were clear and strong, better than any actual words on a paper page.

Now it was time to let them go.

Some she had forgotten completely, so it was if they were already gone. She had only to delete the mental bookmarks for where they had been.

Some she felt she ought to "re-read."

There was a conversation under a tree; a couple wrestling and falling into the water.

There were two people watching a troop of soldiers winding through the forest. The two people were a man and the woman of different, unearthly, races, lying with their elbows on top of some uncomfortable prickly stuff growing on a ridge above the path. The woman was about to find out that the man beside her has a doe's heart.

There was a scene of a boy sitting at a table. It's a big table, so big that every time the house it stands in has changed hands the table has remained. It is too big to remove through the doors; it is too strong to take apart. The boy's family bought the house for that table. It was of the perfect size and importance for holding seances. That's what his family does — they talk to dead people for a living.

Most of what goes on during these gatherings is cleverness and a knack for reading people — reading what they expect. His mother was especially good at reading what people wished for.

That an actual knack for clairvoyance and precognition existed in the family was generally accepted. It didn't occur in every generation, but never completely went time-out-of-mind. In the boy's present-day family, he was the only one with the true knack. So, with the group sitting around the table, the boy sees many others there, too.

Ghosts look much as their former selves did in life. It's as if eternity took all the days of a person's life, all the outfits and hairdos and zit outbreaks and everything and sort of averaged them all together. The ghost's image was this cobbled-together composite. It worked out that a ghost was never the worst or the best of what a person looked like in life. Merely an average. A golden mean. And just the slightest bit transparent and apt to disappear at the edges.

On this particular evening — no, late afternoon really, that time of day that in summer begins to be a bit blue, like the powder on certain moth-wings, like the shadows on the page that never got written — a seance was taking place.

Brick's mother had her eyes closed and she held hands with the people to either side of her. The whole group held hands around the table, except for Brick. He was holding hands, but of the two ghosts that pushed between him and the real flesh and blood people. So while Brick's hands lay on the table in hand-grasping position, they appeared empty. To him his hands felt cool. Ghosts weren't extremely chilly, but they lacked temperature.

His mother was trying to visualize a woman's father, that she very much wanted to hear from.

"I'm getting someone, someone with a J, someone named Joe?"

"Steve," Brick corrected. Steve had joined them in the room, standing beside Brick's mother and whispering to her, but to no effect.

"Joel was my uncle," the woman who wanted to see her father obliged them by saying.

"He's there, too. With Steve," Brick's mother suggested hastily.

"Daddy?" said the hopeful woman. Steve had glided around the table, looking at all the flesh-and-blood people in turn.

"I almost didn't recognize her," he told Brick. "She's gotten much fatter than I remember."

"Steve says his little girl is all grown up," Brick translated.

"Yes, all grown up. His little girl that he loved so much."

The seances had all begun to go like this. Mother would ostensibly lead them, but Brick would inevitably be called upon to relay information to her.


One page laid to rest. 699.000 to go.

July 22, 2003 in snippets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Postcard from the Black Bass

—June 19, 1982


A honeymoon is one occasion when decorum begs me not to write, "Wish you were here."

Behind this Inn, however, a greensward ribbon cleaves river and canal and you'd have liked the man we met today.

Imagine this—four Borzoi hounds careen toward us; a man behind strains to hold them two per hand. When their leashes snarl he lets them go.

All veer for the canal, plunge in, then double back, arcing up the bank.

Their profiles wet are lean as weathervanes.

And though he doesn't say so in these words, we guess tending the amber herd along this slender pasture is his work and family both.

Just setting out, we've no idea what lies ahead—what beauties, distances, what patient lengths.

June 19, 2003 in dailiness, snippets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Young Man with Bass Guitar

I close my eyes and I see a lean dark silhouette. His left hand is deftly making the changes and his right thrums the heck out of his first Fender Squier. The awkward auditorium lighting makes the tuning keys especially bright and the fall of mop-hair over the eyes a dull gold. (At some point during this past year, he has grown shoulders.)

He's got the audience clapping the beat. He ups the amp, lets the tiniest bit of distortion creep in. I want to keep that grin on his face.

April 29, 2003 in Music, dailiness, snippets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


This Moth

...fragment from an old notebook:

This moth, wings folded, is unrecognizable as a moth. Convinced it is a decomposing leaf, a scrap of newspaper, I nearly grind it into powder with my sneaker. From between my feet it opens wings the startling blue of a robin's egg, rises and is gone.

Although I remember writing this in summer it seems to fit with today. Finally it feels like spring in southern New England. The cardinals have returned to the giant boxwood in the back yard. I forget they are back and then glimpse the male — a vivid wedge of red. It reminds me of when I wrote this:

This morning as I dress, a jay
dives from the gum tree —
the blue streak running through me

April 15, 2003 in snippets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Stable Mom

I've become a Stable Mom. Like a Soccer Mom, only with horses.

The day-to-day fallout from this is not too bad: the stable is only a few miles from our house and there are worse things than having muck-boots littering the front hall. (Ice hockey equipment, for instance, as I know from our years in the dorms, generally takes up more space and smells much worse.)

When I was growing up my parents couldn't have afforded riding lessons and I'm not sure we can either. By having relatively little actual experience with horses, I was able to retain a romantic view of them. Now that I know them better, I realize I didn't really miss anything. I like animals and animals like me, but I'm not a horsewoman.

With Mare, it's different. In the year and a half my daughter's been riding, she's absorbed the ethos of the barn, which is to eschew nail polish and helplessness and instead cultivate a cool indifference to muck and pride in being able to toss a hay bale nearly as big as you are. In the barn, you earn respect by coming early and staying late, by doing the most work, by literally Windexing the floor of your favorite horse's stall.

In the barn, your glory is getting to braid manes and tails or paint horse hooves. You find an old horseshoe and paint it a pretty color and mount it over your favorite horse's stall. You take to wearing t-shirts with the barn's logo on them; you get to order one with your name embroidered on the front and the word "staff" on the back. And, finally, you get to show.

A horse show starts days before the actual event. Every bit of saddlery and tack gets oiled or washed. The lint trap of your mother's dryer fills up with hair. If it's warm enough, the horses get a bath under the hose. It's not unlike a car wash, except the horses can kick and or slap wet tails at you.

The day of the show, which begins before dawn, every inch of the horse gets curried and brushed. Crumbs of sleep are gently swabbed out of his eyes. His nostrils get cleaned with baby wipes; his anus gets wiped with baby oil. His nose gets powdered. His chestnuts, the hard horny knots on the insides of his legs, get anointed with Vaseline. When he's finally brushed and braided and tacked up, the rider can attend to her own toilette.

Jods. You gotta have jodhpurs. They must fit tightly, so the judges can see air between you and the saddle when you post. Boots, clean black ones. A white shirt, with a funny backwards collar like a cleric. You must wear a pin in the front of this, even if it's only a humble safety pin.

A smooth-fitting jacket and a black velvet helmet completes the ensemble but you're not done yet. If your hair is long, it gets bundled into a pony tail or a bun; if short it gets caught in a hairnet and tacked sternly behind your ears with bobby pins.

(No, you tell your mother, you can't possibly eat anything.)

Several hours after your arrival at the show grounds, the first event begins. Showmanship. You lead your horse in through the gate and watch the judge. When she nods you trot forward, taking care not to appear to be pulling your horse. You stop on your mark and smile. The judge walks all around the horse; you carefully shift from one side and then the other, never standing between her and the horse. She nods at you and makes notes on her clipboard.

After everyone in the class has gone there's a pause while the judges score the event. Chances are you'll get a ribbon, but what color?

Throughout the day, you'll walk or ride through the gate into the ring. Walk-Trot. Canter. Equitation. Pleasure. Each class has it's own name; sometimes the judges look more at you, the rider, sometimes more at the horse beneath you. It's always over too fast.

Lest you get too stuck on yourself, you'll be reminded it's not all about you. There are other girls from the barn to cheer for. The horses need water, flakes of hay; they must be unbridled and allowed to graze, they must be tacked up again. At the end of the day, the trailer rumbles home decorated with rosettes. It needs mucking out, the horses need food. Every saddle and bridle and pad gets hung on its own peg. The hundreds of tiny braids are picked out and the manes and tails brushed smooth.

You kiss your favorite's whiskery nose before you go, then go back once more and fling your arms around his neck. You leave him a rosette: he worked hard, he earned it.

The blue Danish, your very first one, you take with you, retaining your grip on it even as you fall asleep in the car. At home your mother straightens the boots you leave in the hall and refrains from asking you to walk the dogs. She looks sunburned, how did that happen? You fall asleep again at dinner, your head in your plate. You dream you are a horse and your hair is made of ribbons.

April 8, 2003 in dailiness, snippets | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack