Awkwardly, Diane held the woman’s dead hand trying to slide off the wedding rings. Her skin, like cold clay, gave resistance. The gold circle spun, a large document , uploading. She looked away with sudden 2 am ineptitude. He stood at the bedside, his warm fingers over Diane’s were a rescue.
“I put them on,” he said, “I’ll be the one to take them off.”
Ever since I was a young girl, I was fascinated with Picasso. There is something inspiring about the child-like way he approaches the canvas. I have always kept in mind that the little girl inside me that always wanted to be an artist could find her way. Much of my life has been about writing and creating with the word, but 20 years ago my ex-mother-in-law taught me how to cross stitch while I was pregnant and unable to work. I started out with small kits and made English cottages the size of refrigerator magnets. One year, I was given a software program that allowed me to move away from the traditional country kitsch that is found in cross stitch to be able to do portraits and anything I can photograph.
Though I haven’t always agreed with the way Picasso treated women or the way he lived his life, I couldn’t help but do his portrait. His face is deeply interesting. This portrait captures some of the pain all artists feel in the endeavor to let their creativity out.
This piece is 6.25 inches by 5 inches and is matted locally by my favorite art and frame shop to fit an 8 x 10 frame. I spent about 120 hours on this piece and am asking $60.00 plus shipping (in the US only, international can be worked out). If interested, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I started reading this book in 2020, but did not get to finish it. I’ve had quite a few holdovers from the year before as I read too many books at once and then not finish them. I chose The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon from the shelves of a used book sale. I liked the simplicity of the cover and how the smoke swirled across it. The way the title is in a hazy script made me feel as if there were an impermanence to the words.
Sometimes I choose books this way knowing nothing about the book or the author. I never read blurbs or jacket covers. I don’t want to know about the book before I read it and sometimes the cliff notes of what should drag me into the book, puts me off.
This book is written like a stream-of-consciousness style of writing because there are no dialogue tags, no notation that anyone is speaking. This is a narrator driven book through its entirety. Had I known this before I started reading, I would have closed the book and passed it on to someone else, which is why I don’t read blurbs. I need these challenges sometimes.
There is a deep sense of searching in the pages of The Polish Boxer. There is a hunger for life and for knowing. These are the things that kept me in this non-traditional fiction book. It is a book in which a character finds himself through the search for another person. It is a journey of disappointment and self-discovery. Once you get past the lack of dialogue tags and settle into what the author is trying to tell you, I think you will enjoy the ride.
I’m pulling this one out of the way back machine. It was originally written in 2008 and published somewhere, though the place escapes me without searching records. I’ve always loved the power of dreams to tell me something about myself. I can still remember this dream even though it has been 13 years. I hope you enjoy.
I once dreamed of Bob Dylan
I once dreamed of Bob Dylan in a tree house, one walled, and built from looking glass.
The old man spoke to me as leaves colored like imminent death drifted and swirled, their reflection a knowing torture, and he said
“You must walk the highway to get to the by-way.”
I blinked twice, flashing sea stones at his face (cracked and dried like mud in noon sun) as he pointed to the lines on mine that had not been written yet.
I am happy to announce that my poem “A Conversation In the Bathroom With My Transgender Son” was published in the Identity Issue of Fragmented Lines. There is a wonderful host of great artwork and writing in this issue. Please stop by and check it out.
Happy New Year everyone. Yes, I know, it’s the sixth. Better late than never.
Now that 2020 is out of the way, I can get back on track. The year was distracting, to say the least. I still managed to read some books, but my audio book game was off for sure. Somewhere in the summer of last year, I took part of a workshop with a book agent who was going to help us learn how to query an agent. For those of us without degrees in writing or any earthly clue what that even means, this workshop was going to be great.
It was until she gave us a homework assignment to come up with several comparative books to the ones we had written, but the caveat was that they had to be from the last five years. Insert panic. Waves of glorious, crying panic. Let’s just start with the fact that most of the books I read are from dead authors or from ones who are publishing, but not at the breakneck speed of mainstream fiction. I attempted to look up books which I thought would stand with my themes or time setting. I had a hard time taking books at their word and not reading them first to see if it was really comparable. Add to this the fact that I hadn’t read any recent fiction in a fair bit of time.
What does all of this have to do with N. K. Jemisin? I’m getting to that. This year one of my goal is to try to read a great number of Time Magazine’s Top 100 books of 2020. I am doing this to open my reading comfort zone and maybe grow as a writer. My palate for the word isn’t as broad as I had hoped, and I learned this from the workshop. My second novel has touches of science fiction and fantasy… both categories of fiction that I DON’T actually read. How do I expect to pull that off successfully? I have started my novel writing career as a pantser 100% and I’m telling you this is beyond painful in the editing phase.
The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin has found its way on Time Magazine’s list, as I’m sure it is on many others as well. Before this, I had never even heard her name. You may gasp, I get it. Her book about the creation of New York City from a multi-universe point of view rocked my world. I have to admit that I listened to this as an audio book and Robin Miles is an amazing voice actress. She made Jemisin’s words come alive. I was in this book. I could see everything she wanted me to see. I am not sure how many pages it is as a traditional book, but it was a whopping 16 hours of listening. It was a race to the finish line for me as it was due back in the morning with a waiting list already formed.
I’m not going to tell you anything more about this book because I think you need to explore it for yourself. The adventure is in parsing it all together like a puzzle. It was a fabulous way to start my new journey of writer’s I’ve never read before. Get ready. This year will be ripe with book reviews.
It is hard to know where to begin. The year started out with a trip to Arizona just as the pandemic was starting to be more than a whisper in China and Europe. I saw my brother for the first time in twenty years. I spent time with family and time in contemplation.
I changed jobs just as the pandemic started to hit locally going from being an ER nurse for nearly 14 years to going back to the medical floor. It felt like both an insane and a sane thing to do. Switching gears from critical care back to non-critical care felt like going backward, but what I have learned is that my critical knowledge can save people in that space too. Everyone has the potential to take a turn for the worse. The work has been just as hard or harder. The deaths of patients hit much deeper when you have spent weeks caring for them rather than minutes. Not that each death I have ever witnessed hasn’t take a piece of my soul. I’m learning that I like to take care of old folks more than young folks. They are appreciative and have good stories. They make me laugh and cry.
Being an introvert (possibly a ambivert), I thought I would have it made in the shade when they closed down practically everything in my town in New York, but I was wrong. I realized just how many places I went in a day, how much public I soaked up by just being in close proximity. Forced isolation has a much different feeling than when it is freely chosen. I did what I always do and that is find a way around it. Much of the year was spent playing disc golf and walking… so much walking. I found new places to explore in my town and found peace in nature like I had not before. I played my first tournaments in disc golf and got an official PDGA number. I even placed 3rd in one event.
In April, after spending a month writing poems from tandem prompts, I fell in love. I had really settled on being alone for the rest of my life. A string of bad relationships makes you feel like it is hard to trust and I had trust issues in the background already. The pandemic had me looking for friendship and I found that along with love. Sometimes I don’t feel like I deserve all the kindness this man wants to shower me with. I feel broken and selfish and a bit closed off when I shouldn’t. But he is always there waiting to offer solution and patience. From a distance (we live 8 hours apart), we have built a beautiful friendship and have worked diligently around every corner to be present in our own individual traumas while being there for each other. Our holiday plans were foiled by Covid, but not for much longer.
This year I finished writing the first draft of my first novel. My writer’s group at the library was a great influence in getting me back into finishing this book and my dear friends Mattea and Jerry pushed me across the finish line. It was no where near what I wanted it to be and it is currently on its third draft. In the spring, I set the first novel down to start an idea for the second one. Seven chapters into that one and I went back to the first. The foundation is laid. Yesterday, the book cover for the second book came to me while in deep rest during acupuncture. It is going to be an exciting new year.
This fall I was diagnosed with Melanoma and had a huge chunk excised off the side of my face which I promptly named Edgar Allen Mole. It started as a way to cope with this disfigurement and the fear of dying. The skin is the body’s largest organ and the most exposed. The potential for more cancer is always in the back of your mind. I was never a big sunbather, but I do enjoy the outdoors and disc golf and hiking. I only wore sunscreen if I were going to a beach with “wide open sun.” Life is different now. Hats all the time. Sunscreen all the time. No activity (if I can help it) with a UV index over 4. The hardest part was watching my kid silently unravel with the thought of losing me. That made me determined to kick some ass. Since the first excision, I have had four more biopsies with negative results. My eyes are free of melanoma as well. This year may find me having another ten biopsies, but I will cross that bridge when I get there.
An opportunity opened itself in December for me to sell all the things I make. I’m a crafter and artist. It is my meditation. It is what I do instead of take anxiety medication. I had always wanted to know if the things I made were of interest to anyone else. I took the plunge when a local store opened up that sells only handmade items from locals. Happily, I have sold enough this month to cover the rent of my spot for two more months plus some cash in my pocket. It was a goal I had for myself and I was happy to have achieved it in a pandemic situation.
Now for the fun stuff! Here is a list of books that I was able to read or listen to this year:
Poetry: Like a Begger by Ellen Bass Lucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatahil Under the Influence of Nothingness by Dan Provost Human Hours by Catherine Barnett Heroin Love Songs X Blisters on My Soul by Jack Henry
Non-Fiction: Guest Book by Leanne Shapton The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell The Five by Hallie Rubenhold Girl Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson Atomic Habits by James Clear Songbook by Nick Hornby Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Fiction: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery Moonglow by Michael Chabon Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury Salt Dancers by Ursula Hegi Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng Oryx and Crake by Margarat Atwood Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs Lanny by Max Porter The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfeld The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman Weather by Jenny Offill The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
Graphic Novels: Redlands Black Magik Regression
Buddhist Text: Journey Without Goal by Chogyam Trungpa
I am please to announce that I have two poems, “An Open Window” and “The Slow Dance,” in Volume 10 of Heroin Love Songs. Thank you Jack Henry for sharing these works. Please enjoy a host of other great writers featured in the issue.
This replication, this hidden secret beneath my skin unlocked by the sun has me searching for shade and shadows.
Everything that grows needs light and warmth. It’s a power we all take for granted.
I feel my mind fall into obsession about times of day and UV index about covering every inch of my body.
A hole in my face slowly fills in with new skin and new life, the margins deemed clean but suspicion lingers. What happened once, can happen again.
Purple circles outline more areas of worry like small targets the universe has given me to remember the fine art of vigilance. No more long walks on the beach or sun filled moments in any season or carefree days taken by the hand at whim.
There are only hats and SPF and being unfashionably overdressed.
I’ve been gone a month. A lot can happen with one doctor’s visit. It changes the landscape of an entire life. The end of August I got a new doctor, one that was local and in walking distance. During a basic exam she noted the large number of moles on my back and briefly scanned them, then asked if I had any more.
On the right side of my face between my ear and eye there has been a mole that I thought may have changed size. She immediately sat down and made me an appointment to see plastic surgery about this mole. I went and had a punch biopsy which returned positive for melanoma in situ. If you have to have cancer, this is the best one to have.
Yesterday, I had a wide excision of this mole that left a quarter size crater in the side of my face that they did not want to fully close in case they needed to remove more. Then we talked about skin grafting. Then I sat in my car alone and cried. The hope is the cancer is removed from that spot, but then there are the hundred other moles on my back that now need scrutiny.
I am not a sun worshiper. I do love the outdoors and have for many years sported a “farmer’s tan” from playing disc golf, hiking, walking and mowing the lawn. I never stay out in the sun for more than a few hours and wasn’t a big fan of hats or sunscreen. I wasn’t opposed to them, but I never thought they were necessary. Where I live, most of the population lacks sufficient vitamin D levels and I used the summer sun as a bolster to that. I never considered that I would get melanoma.
The last month has been full of not knowing. Questioning whether it was cancer or just a wayward mole. There was a lot of hoping for the best, but deep inside I knew what the answer would be. I’m a realist at heart. I know too much not to be. What I have learned is how surrounded by loving people I am. My friends have been uplifting even when I didn’t seem receptive to this. Knowing they are out there wishing the best has been helpful.
I’ve had to do a lot of pausing due to biopsy and surgery and in this I found the proper beginning to the novel I had finished in March. There has been a revitalization to my writing and maybe this comes with the fear that life is fleeting. Don’t waste time on thinking you’ll get to things later. Get to them now. Live robustly…but with sunscreen. #SPF100 for life