Archive for March, 2009

How to Use Chopsticks

Posted in fiction with tags , on March 23, 2009 by Sarah aka Sarjé

A short story written in 2008.

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Peter and Fred boarded a plane six days after I arrived in Beijing.  I was busying myself snapping photos at every turn, recording expenses and conversations, for the Travel feature.  The sunlight slanted across my frequent haunt, the Palace Museum, in the early mornings of a beautiful spring.  I satisfied my homesickness for Washington, D.C. by wandering through this temple to the arts.  For the sake of the article, I’d also visited the typical tourist destinations of China, and was now preparing to tour various Buddhist temples in and around the city.  I set out for Biyun Si, the Temple of the Azure Clouds.  I never got to any temple beyond it.

All the details of the trip have long since been published by the Post.  I should explain this business of Peter and Fred, a story that begins back in my lifelong home of the District.  It was autumn, and a spicy musk filled the air.  The breeze blew through my poorly-chosen outerwear, a crocheted sweater full of intentional holes.  I shoved my hands deep in my pockets, and quickened my pace as I passed under the golden archway of Chinatown, spotting my favorite restaurant a block ahead.  As usual, I would eat alone.  I shared my life with the white fluff-ball I call Malcolm, a fellow creature of habit; he was the only living creature who calmed me and ignored my emotional baggage.  The red door jangled softly as I shoved into the restaurant.  Husband-and-wife proprietors smiled in unison at my appearance, directing me to my usual table with a glance.  I nodded slightly, and trotted to the back of the restaurant, rubbing my arms like a boy scout’s fire-sticks.

A twenty-going-on-sixteen waitress in skinny black jeans stooped over me, as I impatiently repeated my regular order a third time: hot tea, chow mein, egg drop soup.  She finally got it copied down on her notepad, turned with a toss of her long, scraggly hair, and wandered off to the kitchen.  I busied myself with a colleague’s article on Belize, scratching out unnecessary words and squeezing lengthy comments in tiny script into the margins.  The girl floated back to my table, plunking a tall glass unceremoniously in front of me.  I stared for a moment at the drops of sticky brown liquid tainting the copy, then looked up at the waitress, moving only my eyes.  The glare was sufficient.  “Oh.  Sorry,” she mumbled, picking the glass up and carrying it off to another unwitting customer.  My tea finally arrived, lukewarm.  I frowned into it, but said nothing.

The waitress, the kind of girl whose ethereal sparseness fit the contemporary ideal of desirability, brought my food a few minutes later.  It was even the correct order.  I watched her drop the plate in front of me with thin fingers, and noticed her elbows poking out under her taut skin.  If she turned sidewise, she’d disappear altogether.  I picked up my fork and dug into the chow mein, as the zombie-girl ambled off with my unused set of chopsticks, winding her hair around them absent-mindedly, forming a bird’s-nest chignon.

“You know, that’s not what those are for,” an elderly man a few tables away grumbled, holding his own set of chopsticks with fine precision.  My head snapped up at the sound of his voice, and squinted at him.  The girl ignored him, weaving among the tables, as the man turned, catching my face as my lips twitched into a smile, and winked at me.  I really smiled now — he did recognize me!  He dabbed his mouth with a napkin, and rose slowly, following the waitress’ own path between tables, until he stood stooping over mine.  “Miss Rawlins,” his voice was earnest and gravelly, “so good to see you.”

I dropped my fork with a clang, and rose to take Fred’s hand.  “Professor Qing.  I never expected to run into you.  How have you been, sir?”

Fred chuckled, a low burbling in the back of his throat, which set off a long string of wheezing, phlegmy hacking.  His hand gripped the back of an adjacent chair tightly, relaxing only as his convulsing slowed.  “I’ve seen better days,” he choked out, his eyes twinkling nonetheless.  He pulled the chair around, and settled himself into it.  “Old age is a hell of a thing,” he grinned.  “Don’t mind if I join you a moment, do you Miss Rawlins?”

“No sir!  Not at all,” I exclaimed, scolding myself for not offering him a chair.  I resumed eating, carefully; now was not the time to spill anything.  We chatted amiably for a while, reviewing briefly our lives in the past eighteen years.  I neglected to mention my divorce, and the resultant anxiety that my life was destined for a dead-end.  He didn’t tell me he was a widower, nor did he mention the cancer.  This was just an unexpected, pleasant interaction between former pupil and professor.  That might have been all it was, if I hadn’t been on my lunch break.

You see, I didn’t notice the crowd thinning, or hear the seconds trickling away like the soda that my skinny waitress spilled.  I didn’t feel any shift in the breezes, but change was happening, and my usual insistence on punctuality somehow evaporated.  I was describing my editorial position at the Washington Post, pointing to the article I was proofing, abruptly stopping mid-sentence as realization dawned on me.  It was after three o’clock, and I was missing a meeting with the Editor in Chief.  For a moment, my stomach bolted into my throat.  Fred noticed my panic immediately.  He didn’t say anything, simply stood, and rested his hand on my shoulder.

“Rawlins,” he rumbled, “time to get a move on, my son’s expecting me.”  He winked again, and shambled away through the empty restaurant and the red jangling door.  I dove instinctively for my purse, and the trusty pill bottle.  I swallowed a pill down dry, tossed a bank note onto the table, chucked the bottle back into the purse, and hustled back to the Metro.  My boss was going to kill me!

Racing up three flights of stairs, I flung myself through the oak door without preamble.  Francine, the secretary was probably stunned by my behavior, but I had already shot past her and slammed through the Editor’s door.  He wasn’t there.

I swiveled around, scuttling back to Francine.  “Where is he?” I wheezed.

“Mr. Hoskins is in a meeting,” Francine stated primly.

I groaned, and without another word, made my way slowly to the second floor.  Some of my coworkers watched my walk of shame to my desk, their eyebrows raised, but no one said a thing.  I slumped down in my office chair, gulped a mouthful of air, then sat up straight, tense.  After a few minutes, I forced myself back to the stained half-proofed article, and began mechanically adjusting punctuation marks.

I popped up when my phone rang.  It was Francine.  “Mr. Hoskins would like to meet with you at four.”

“All right,” my voice warbled, “thank you, Francine.”  I dropped the receiver.

Fourteen minutes, another pill, and one flight of stairs later, I watched as George Hoskins arranged his wide frame into a black leather wingback, behind a massive mahogany table.

“Mr. Hoskins, I am so sorry,” I started.

He held up a hand.  “Jeanine, please.  How long have I known you?”

I calculated quickly, and mumbled, “eight years.”

“Then please, after eight years,” he scowled, “call me George!”

“Sorry,” my fingers crushed against themselves in my lap.  “George.”

“Fine, fine,” George stared at me for a moment, leaning back, presumably to better accommodate his rotund belly.  “Out of curiosity, why were you late?”  He assumed a look of definite curiosity, tilting his head.

“I ran into one of my old professors.”

“Oh?”  George was resting his head on a hand now, his bulbous nose pushed into his knuckles.  “Of what subject?” he somehow managed to get past the cage of fingers in front of his mouth.

“History of China,” I mumbled, hoping I wouldn’t have to explain the entire conversation to my ever-interrogative boss.

“Well, fancy that!” he exploded, “it really is a small world!”

“Why do you say that…George,” I added.

“Well, that gets me to the point of this meeting.  I have an assignment for you.”

My stomach clenched up.  “An assignment?  But sir –”

There was that annoying hand, up again to stop my fluttering.  “Jeanine, I know you haven’t been up for the travel for a long time, but I need you on this one.  You’re my best editor, but you’re a better writer.  And you’re the only one who can do this job.”

“What’s the job?” I heard myself squeak out.  I forced a deep breath; I needed to regain some composure.

“China.  Next March.”

I shook my head slowly, trying to process this ridiculous concept.  “Sir — George,” I corrected, “I don’t think I can do that.”

“Of course you can.  You’re the best I’ve got, and besides, you know the language, you’re a talented photographer,” his voice trailed off as I stared at him.

I blushed queasily.  “I’m terribly rusty,” my voice cracked, “I haven’t spoken Chinese or taken a photo in years.”

“Like riding a bike, Jeanine, like riding a bike.”  George grimaced a bit at the hue I was taking on, his hands now gripping the arms of his chair.  “I’m giving you fair warning, so you can decide.  But Jeanine,” he began to slowly ascend, “you’ll put me in a terrible pickle if you don’t accept the job.  This story’s going to be important.  The readers want — hell, I want to see China.  Through your words, we will.”  George was staring hopefully down at me past his jowls.

“I’ll — I’ll think about it.”  I stood up shakily, my stomach flopping around even more at higher elevation.  George simply nodded, turning to a window as I trudged the long way back down to my desk.

My colleagues watched silently as I slouched into my chair again.  My eyes lit upon the yellowish tape that affixed an old postcard to my PC monitor: The Great Wall of China.  It was too much for me to take, and I ran down the corridor of desks to the bathroom, my hand over my mouth.

That night, after a very uncomfortable train ride home, the memory of lunch fully coated my memory, now that I’d experienced it twice.  I pushed past the food part, and shifted my focus to the strange meeting with Fred Qing.  I was stretched out on my back over the length of my sofa-sleeper, reading a novel by Anchee Min as my cat, Malcolm, was curled up snoozing on my stomach.  I scanned the same lines for the fifth time, and gave up on the novel.  My mind was too busy drifting over the day.  Would I go to China?  Well, of course, I would.  I had to, I know that now.

Two months passed, days of dreary rain pelting my head, mashing the fallen leaves into the muddy ground.  Thick velvety grey clouds blanketed the sky for weeks, it seemed.  I contented myself with weekly visits to the Freer Gallery, my favorite of the Smithsonian’s museums.  I bundled myself up each Saturday in my wool pea-coat, hopped onto a train (the complimentary Orange and Blue Lines vying for my affections), and strolled through the gallery.  Usually, no one bothered me, though the docents did seem to recognize me.

It was nearly December when Fred and I met again.  I was intently studying a sea foam-colored Guan Ware crackled vase (Song Dynasty, 12th Century), when I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I tensed up, turned, and met the grinning eyes of my professor, once more.  “Professor Qing!”  I exclaimed.  Before I knew what I was doing, I’d embraced him, my tension gone in an instant.

“Ms. Rawlins, pleasure to see you again,” Fred mumbled, almost as taken aback by the hug as I was.

“And you, sir.”

Now again, I was permitted a first-name basis.  I wondered why these situations were coming up now, and why I was so uncomfortable with those terms of familiarity.  My shrink would say it stemmed from my fear of intimacy and my inability to get over my divorce.  She’d probably have cheered if she’d seen me nearly tackling my elderly professor.

I realized I hadn’t spoken in several minutes, and was now staring into space.  Coming to, I breathed, “I’m sorry.”

“What for, my dear?” Fred scratched the tufts of white hair at the base of his bald head, and smiled.  “I assumed you were studying that jade statuette,” he said, pointing over his shoulder with a thumb.

I could only beam at Fred’s kindness.  “Fred, would you care to walk with me for a while, on the Mall?”  Fred graciously agreed.  We wandered together, stopping occasionally to muse over a scroll or carving, before collecting our coats.  I busily pattered on about ceramics, as Fred nodded and grunted, but found myself stopping midsentence once again, as we stepped through the doors.  Fred looked at my bemused face, and he radiated calm, as though he were himself responsible for the sight before me.

Great feathery clumps of snow drifted down all around us, covering the trees and grass in pure white.  How was this possible?  I could have sworn it was raining when I arrived three hours ago!  Fred’s cabby hat sat jauntily over the fuzzy white hair, his pipe dangled from his lip.  Smoke encircled his head like a wreath, and he began to look like an Iconic portrait of a blessed saint.  I felt then that Fred possessed a kind of magic.

I spent the day with Fred, kicking up the snow as we sauntered about the Mall.  He smoked and listened as I told him about the proposed assignment in China.  “What do you think?” I asked.

“Jeanine,” Fred pulled on his pipe, his black eyes shining, “you should go.  You know this.”

“Yes,” I admitted.  “I have always wanted to, but — ” I hesitated.  “I’ve always been too scared.”

“Fear is understandable, Jeanine.  And anything that can be understood can be overcome.  You make an agreement between yourself and fear.  You tell fear to be afraid!”  At this, Fred raised a fist triumphantly.

I laughed at Fred’s exclamation, heartily, and he joined in.  The bout of coughing that followed lasted much longer than the last time, agitated by the cold, and Fred gripped onto my arm for support.  I faced him, tapping on his back helplessly with my free hand, then wrapped the arm around his back, my fingers in his armpit.  I supported him this way, as we resumed the walk, more slowly.

“Don’t ever get old, Jeanine,” Fred rasped.  I sighed helplessly.

Fred and I descended the escalator at Smithsonian station, and boarded a train, sitting alongside one another toward the back.  Fred’s thin-skinned hand, the hand that so delicately controlled a pair of chopsticks, that I imagined once formed a clay jar, or wrote fine calligraphy, rested weary between both of my own.  I accompanied him to his home, an apartment on the third floor.  We rode a rickety elevator in silence.  Fred perked up when we reached the landing.

“You can meet my son, Peter!”  Fred nearly bounded into the apartment.  I remained in the elevator, marveling at the sudden vitality flooding his cheeks, then squeezed myself past the doors as they began to slide shut.

Fred left the front door hanging open, as he padded around the apartment, looking for Peter.  But Peter wasn’t there.  I passed through the open door, into the foyer.  Fred returned to me, frowning.  “He went out for the afternoon, I suppose,” he muttered, twisting the cabby hat between his hands.

“Perhaps he went to look for you,” I mused.

“Yes.  I suppose that’s a possibility.”  Fred glowered.  “I wish you could have met him, I think you’d get along very well.”

I smiled at Fred’s obvious matchmaking attempt, and replied, “Another day, Fred.  Another day.”

“Yes.”  Fred stood stiffly in the doorway to the kitchen.  I took his cold hand again.  He squeezed my fingers and nodded, then abruptly shifted away, into the kitchen.  I silently released his fingers, and reached for the doorknob aback me.  As my fingers alighted upon it, Fred shuffled back into the hall, croaking my name.  He silently held a pair of lacquered wooden chopsticks out to me, his eyes twinkling, falling stars.  Any objection I might have had faded, as he gently placed them in my hands, murmuring, “You can learn.”

“Will you teach me?” I whispered.  Fred simply smiled, his wrinkled face so very tired, and blinked dilatorily.  He patted my hands, chopsticks and all, and left me again.  I waited in the grey-lit hall for several minutes, but Fred never reappeared.

▫■▫ ▪□▪

Another day never came.  I meant to visit Fred again, but I suddenly found myself busier than I’d been in years.  My colleagues, for some reason, had taken to asking me to lunch.  In January, I dragged my trusty old rangefinder out of storage, and began to take test shots.  George approved of them — actually, he jumped, don’t ask me how, and exclaimed, “Brilliant!” so loudly that Francine spilled coffee all over her desk.  At that, I couldn’t help but remember the waif of a waitress, which brought me back to thoughts of Fred.  But I could do nothing.

My psychiatrist told me I’d never seemed healthier; she suggested a “drug holiday.”  I decided to try it in February.  I didn’t know what to do with myself at first, but I adjusted after a few weeks; by the time my “working holiday” arrived, I felt surprisingly well.

March’s groundcover consisted of snow-mush puddles.  Cherry trees came to bud as I reviewed Chinese phrasebooks and packed my bags.  Francine kindly offered to care for Malcolm during my absence.  I didn’t sleep the night before the flight, but read a novel and began another one, which I continued during my four hours at the “hurry up and wait” sport of commuting by air: Orange train, connecting Coach, line to check-in, line to be checked out, hike down Concourse C — why are flights always at the furthest gate from Security?  By the time I did finally get on board, I was exhausted; I slept for most of the flight (besides the irritating connection in Ontario).

All the other little details of my trip to China were in the feature, but the important thing is this.  I went to the Temple of the Azure Clouds.  It was day eight, a Thursday.  The temple shone blue-bright among the Western Hills towering around it.  I moseyed around, basking in the locus of mysterious electricity, remembering occasionally to take a photograph, when I spotted a man kneeling by the goldfish pond of one of the courtyards.  There was nothing particularly unusual about this, except that beside him, in incredibly fine form, was a pale turquoise vase, which I would have sworn was Guan Ware.  I found myself drawn to this specimen, for surely such an antiquity wouldn’t be on the ground here?

I approached quietly, but the man sensed me nonetheless, and looked up.  His salient face revealed he was middle-aged, and his black eyes shone wetly.  I bowed, greeting him in Chinese.  He looked amazed that I spoke the language, and returned my greeting.

“Pardon me,” I ventured, “but do you know anything about this vase?”

“Yes,” the man replied, “but why do you ask?”  He stood now, taller than me, and carefully picked the container up with both hands.

“Forgive me, but it looks like an antiquity of the Song dynasty.”  The man smiled, again surprised at my knowledge.

“Yes, that’s exactly what it is,” he said quietly, stroking the side of the vase with a thumb.  I crooked my head forward to examine the ceramic, curiously.  After a few moments, I realized that I might be disturbing him.  I quickly looked up, prepared to apologize, but I saw his eyes twinkling.

“Sir — ”

“Peter,” he corrected.  He angled his head toward a wooden bench across from where we stood.  I preceded him, and we sat, the vase resting between us, both our eyes glued to the rare, beautiful object.  As I studied it, something clicked in my mind.  A scrap of something, perhaps only a dust mote of inkling, floated from the far reaches of memory.  George Hoskins was right, I realized, it really is a small world.

“Peter,” as I pronounced his name, my throat tightened.  “Why are you here?”

He took a deep breath.  “My father,” he said, reverting to English, without warning.  He stroked the lid of the urn with his long index finger, his voice cracking.  “He wanted to be buried here, in these hills.”

Tears were already falling down my cheeks as I asked, “What was your father’s name?”

“Fred,” Peter said softly.  “His name was Fred Qing.”

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To Be Worn

Posted in poetry with tags , on March 23, 2009 by Sarah aka Sarjé

I consider this my best poem, so far.  Originally written in 2006.

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She wanted to be worn.
Worn down, lovingly,
In the way that can only be
Accomplished over eons of use,
In the manner of his favourite blazer.
Worn till the elbows are shiny.
She didn’t want to be worn out,
But rather, worn over,
Like a worrying stone kept
In close reach, in the lefthand pocket
Caressed when needed.
And like the natural erosion –
Stone smoothed by rushing river –
She wanted him to be as constant:
As unceasingly adoring and indifferent.
She was vexed by her own mutability.
Her kitelike flitting –
Fearing she’d fly
Before his hands and words
Had fully bound her;
Before he could discover her pockets
And buttons.
But she took comfort,
In finding he was her tether.
She might fly
But his heartstrings kept her close.

The Drowning Leaves

Posted in fiction with tags , , on March 23, 2009 by Sarah aka Sarjé

This short story was originally written in autumn of 2006.

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As the road curved she was Sonia — again.  Thinking in Russian, unaware of this equivocal fact.  For it was that the barriers of language fell within the walls of her mind.  She was only conscious of the urgent observations which palpitated within and over her head: in rhythm with shivering rains and blood coursing through her.

It was the height of autumn, colorfully cold.  Hot shades exotically contrasted against the embittered grey of ensuing snows — how she loved the contradictions of her thoughts.

She modestly took a drag from her black Sobranie, and envisioned herself as a thin line of smoke carrying an incongruously bright umbrella.  Her slim, pointed demeanor housed the uninhibited lucidity otherwise only mirrored by her blue exhalations and a sometime-trailing shadow.  But today was not a day for shadows, not even a day with the obligation of external heat.  Sonia glowed through ashen fingers; her intoxicating breath brightened her alveoli; her flushed cheeks shimmered through sheer drizzle.   The umbrella’s purpose presented her a mobile, cavernous desert amidst the ceaseless ocean.  Her head dry, her mind drenched with observation — she a small girl toeing the line between sand and surf — the essence of her being floating in bits out to sea, carried on smoky exhalations.

The nondescript countryside, possibly typical or unique, depended upon its viewer for definition.  Sonia would not indulge the landscape in a response, for to provide elucidation — to harness that place in terminology — would strip it of its majestic repose.  She strolled along the gently curving pathway, feeling for a moment that she was a solitary black stripe across a canvas of greys.  But her observation expanded once more.  Her singular plane of reality intersected a multidimensional landscape of color and form.  Her mind was capable of appreciation, and more: she now began to paint light over obscurity: a mid-afternoon aura which smelled faintly of fresh croissants.

Her feet pattered in time with the slight rain, carrying her past the puddled pools of murky water resting alongside the avenue.  Suicidal leaves now drowned in vermilion and bittersweet-golden splendor.  A drop fell, and the surface of the nearest puddle shuddered, so violently disturbed by the cold sameness.  Sonia regarded this event loftily, but felt the tiniest tremor at the obvious expression of unshakable force.

Now, suddenly, the connections were impossible to ignore, and the ocean of thought crashed ferociously upon her.  The leaves — so cruelly ripped from their limbs — were the gilt pages of his manuscript, crushed and burned away with ice.  The trees would soon stand empty, barren, as the leather binding had.  As she had.

Sonia paused.   She took one last pull on the cigarette, one last look around the unnamed place, before returning to the urgently commanding past, with too many names.  Captured once more.

Now.  She was Sennett again.  The road still curved.  They were walking along the Canal du Midi in autumn, two years prior.  Her Gauloise stank; she ignored it.  Alain pulled the cigarette from her lip, gratuitously caressing her, taking a considered drag and blowing the smoke into redundant rings.  She pulled her crimson cardigan tighter around her thin frame.   He wobbled along the edge of the canal, balancing with arms reaching, but not for her.

Alain was so French, but then Sonia had never known what that really meant, only that she wasn’t.  They had met here randomly, and Sonia since wondered who planned it.   She suspected plots, but her mind had never worked that way.  Anyhow, Alain was the writer.  She just acted his parts.

They met on a Tuesday.  At her introduction of Sonia, Alain proclaimed “Sennett!” and she immediately believed in him.  He seemed, in that moment, a wellspring of credibility.   She accepted the French name, dazzled by his intense intelligence.  She accepted it too, hoping the French could accept her, that Alain, with his darkly curious countenance, would give her more than a passing glance.  When he did, she became thirsty, for he sought at the time an empty vessel to fill with his ideas, his politic, his version of truth, and any manner of himself.  So she shaped her straight black line, and became the chalice.   Alain would proceed to fill her, and quaff his own pretension.  Sonia, when she was Sennett, was actress and prostitute, seeing it this way only in shameful hindsight.

There had been many good days, spent mostly in Alain’s house in Béziers, or at the bibliotheque when research was necessary, as he wrote his novel.  Sennett quickly found herself playing the role of muse, but it was to be expected, so she accepted it too — and she found a reciprocal muse in Alain.  She began to paint.  Days passed, though as artists, they felt obliged to notice each one, and in turn, the seasons, until it was autumn again.

A drive to Paris was in order, business and pleasure intermixed.   Sennett was ignorant of Alain’s dominance.  She gave herself so freely, drawn to his sagacity and mannish bravado.   Indeed, she felt herself more quietly perceptive, and so she believed they were a good match.

Alain’s book was soon published, and saw early success.  Sennett began to sell paintings to neighbors and small galleries.  Their life followed the gaily expected pattern, until something unexpected interrupted — and when this occurred, Sennett discovered how unwise her move into Alain’s life had been.  The spring’s new life did not settle well with him.  He demanded she reject her newfound condition.

She bore the consequences, rather than their child.

Alain’s temperament was not aborted, however.  Sennett could never explain his anger, and she was unqualified to try.  He skillfully paired anger and absence, until finally, Sennet refused to tolerate Alain’s brutality any longer.  She easily erased herself from his life.  She had only one rebuttal to his violence.

Sennett, discovering wisdom, wandered one final Tuesday down the Canal du Midi, eyes wet, cigarette between her lips.  She crossed the canal bridge, while Alain arrived home, and discovered the leaves of his novel scattered around the house.   Sennett’s escape was evident by the leather binding sprawled on her side of the bed, a single straight black line painted through the former book’s title, daring him to remember it, to remember her.

The nameless place faded back into sight, as Sonia returned to herself and pushed away the memory once again.  It was autumn, this time without Alain, and without tears.   She smiled faintly at the past, blowing it away on a puff of smoke.  Sonia continued walking, carrying herself tall and straight, and full of possibility once more, into the mist.

you were not there

Posted in poetry with tags , on March 23, 2009 by Sarah aka Sarjé

From February of 2007.

=====

you were not there
in the morning when i woke.

so i fixed coffee
and called your name,
fed the cats
and washed my face,
started the car after
three tries,
round six bends i bought
milk and looked around
in hopes of your face.

you weren’t there,
not in the produce
or the magazine stands.

i saw a fruit vendor
he had a handmadehat
like the one i gave
you last winter
but he liked his.

now it’s nighttime again,
and you are stillost
to me.
in a few minutes the blankets
will cocoon me
but never as your arms did.
all the mundane tasks of the day
are the same

but colder with you

gone.

Toy

Posted in fiction with tags , , on March 23, 2009 by Sarah aka Sarjé

2008.

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Your toy, my toy, is it ever really OUR toy? A plaything — designed for fun–can a person be a toy? Boy-toy, or hoity-toity, the rich shall inherit the tickle-your-elbow (too good for Tickle-Me Elmo). Simple joy for a simple thing, becoming the eversomore complicated frenzy of joyous squeals in playing with yourself or your playfriend, boyfriend, girlfriend, friendwithbenefits.

But a simple toy, yes, that’s the best kind, like Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys in the dead of winter, like hurtling yourself head-down a backyard-hose-fueled Slip-N-Slide.

Slip-n-slide is the name of the game, start to finish, all our beginnings and all our downfalls. Yes, later you find the joys of “sexworld” toys, fun for girls and boys and girl-boys.  Trannies are such a hit these days, and strap-ons are flying off the shelves, onto strapping young women.

Remember the train sets, as you run the show with on-off switches (if only it were that easy), avoiding collisions, or cheering them in the ruckus room as your brother sucks on a Matchbox car. Trains running through tunnels, imagine the tiny passengers, elated to find themselves on the other side, or maybe getting transformed in the darkness, crying in the bright fluorescence of Nine Months Later.

Baby-toy, toy-baby, your little girl grows up and you give her a big-blue-eyed doll all her own to play house. And later you find the doll facedown, naked in the dirt with one eyelid stuck open, and you know the time for resentment has begun.

Remember you did it too, you loved your little ponies, pink and purple hair flowing smooth and radiant under your fingers, and you emulated them in college with Kool-Aid over hard, fried bleach, dunking your head in, feeling the wetness of the summer’s Slip-N-Slide.

The amniotic gush of birth.

A Letter

Posted in fiction, poetry with tags , on March 23, 2009 by Sarah aka Sarjé

From October, 2007.

=====

Maestro:

I write from my soul, from the bottoms of my feet to the thumping valves of my heart.  I write only to remind you: everything is going to be okay.

You find your fears holding you back.  Your past reigns you in from your future.  You must sound a battle cry, and frighten all that terrible away…

I wait, and imagine that I stand by you as you play through this solo.  In fields and cemeteries; in the city; on banks and deltas and shorelines, you crescendo.  And in each chord, as you row toward the shore, I listen as your name carries to me on the slightest breaths of wind.

If I could, I would carry you myself, crafted to be your ship through your tormenting, subconscious waves.  But now is not the time for accompaniment.

Instead, I’ll simply turn the pages of your score, and twirl — on dawn’s deserted shoreline.

delicate

Posted in fiction with tags , on March 23, 2009 by Sarah aka Sarjé

July, 2008.  Inspired by oneword.com.

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She was born with the umbilical cord around her neck, breeched and struggling to breathe, like a whale drowned in sand. She was “blue-blooded,” fine-boned, wide-eyed. Her mother insisted she never leave the house.

When she was fifty-three, she stepped out onto the landing beyond her bedroom door, discovering she had been floating on an ancient oil-tanker all along. She jumped clumsily off of the landing, her wings — far too fragile, too delicate to permit her to do anything but fall with the grace of a ballerina.