Monday, November 13, 2006

The End of Europe

The trees in Sintra

On a walk, on the edge of green,
Hidden inside the branches
Of Portuguese trees,
I felt again—or didn’t feel—
A whisper under my feet.

With my eyes soaking the blood
And mustard shades of Sintra
Her palace shadowing the sea,
I felt again—not really—
The softness inside my shoe.

Inside my Goretex, inside the clouds
That wrung themselves out on Colares,
Rain guttering in the trackside,
I crushed the fibres—and they sprang back—
The fabric ensconced in my boot.

Before the hike, before the storms,
Before the howling dogs followed us.
Before we crossed the dark road of Sao Pedro,
I gave one shop six pounds—all coins—
For socks, and found a way to the end of Europe.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Mounds bar, scorned

Mounds bar... the last candy in the bag
I'm down here!
In the bottom!
Gosh, I even have the bright, red packet!
Come on! I'm chocolate, even.
I'm good! I'm better than those crappy
Sour Skittles, and the wax
Bottle of "juice" you sucked down.


I mean, it's not exactly fruit. I mean,
It's more like... almonds. Yeah! Like
A nut! It even has the word nut in the
Name. And you LOVE cocoa.


Oh! Here he comes again. Take me!
Take me! Take m--
Oh. huh.
Took the granola bar.
Oh well.

At least I know his Dad'll eat me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hobo Days

Daddy cut the charcoal
And rubbed it on my face.
I tied the jeans with a piece of cord
From the an old curtain rod.

My fingers got blackened
All on their own,
When I crumpled newspaper for my old bandana.
A stick, a stick. I needed a stick.

It was one of those cold October
Nights. Dad's old blazer
Hung well past my knees. In the pocket
A business card for Lujack's Automotive.

In hobo days, before I knew things,
Before my dog died, before I owned
Anything. In hobo days, I kept a box
In my drawer. For treasuers, like buttons and notes.

Cold, clear night. Flashlights and loot.
I walked with my sister, my friends. The doors were
Opened, to hobos and spooks,
And princesses wearing cardigans.

Hobo days, charcoal face, bandana on stick.
Paper Frankenstein taped to the wall.
Hobo days, candle glow inside of a gourd,
Harvesting the warm moments of fall.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

No Words For It

Tomoko Takahasi
Everything I have ever done is a mistake.

I see that now, now that I am in this room.

I’ve taken trains out, to Leicester and Saffron Walden, and back in. The wrong ticket, or the wrong platform. Met the wrong woman, at the wrong time. For the wrong reasons.

Once I said “OK” to a doctor. He gave me those pills. I took them, five times a day, for five days, until they were finished. I abstained from drinking. I abstained from you, because you didn’t want me anymore after you found out. It was the wrong pill, the wrong diagnosis. The wrong “yes.”

But hey, you know, baby, don’t you? I know how to say no. I’ve said no before. That one BIG no, it left skid marks on my life. I drop-kicked opportunity, right on through the goal posts, didn’t I? Why would I say yes to that request to work abroad, if you were here, here, here? I plugged it up with T-N-T, burned that bridge, and look, up there—you can see, all around the room, the brackish, high-water marks of the flood, the deluge that NO left behind.

“It’s as if we’re tracing some familiar fault line,” Jonatha sings. Faults, all the marks of this past year, they aren’t dissolving sugar in tea. They scar you. “Remember Christine?” some shithead said to me at a party one night, as if you were just a girl in my Maths class or something. “Christine was such a nice girl.”

Christine, I remember, yes. “Christine wanted to be with me,” I laughed and laughed. He didn’t think it was that funny. He walked away while I laughed, glancing back over his shoulder, the way people do, outside this room.

Remember Christine, what you said? “Henry. Just tell me the truth. I can handle it. I don’t mind. Unless you lie to me. I just want the truth.”

I knew Christine didn’t mind anything. She was so easy. So I told her, “Hey, I love you. You know, Christine.”

It was the truth anyway, but it was still another mistake. I wanted to erase the words from that speech balloon, hanging over my head, once I said them. Because I saw her face. Your face. I saw your face, Christine. I knew what words meant when you twisted them round, and what they didn’t mean, to me.

I “X”ed her out, but not very well. She still showed herself, wiggled around the marks. She was slow and hard and cruel, like the doctor who insisted I stop smoking. I did it, I cut it out, and it cut me back. It screeched across me, like a deep gauge in the Earth. Who knew that dirt could be so fucking comfortable? I moved into that shallow grave, hunkered down and wallowed there, for that black time.

For two weeks, once, all I wanted to do was eat marshmallows, smoke and make paper airplanes out of junk mail. I went to the library, because I was bored making that same model I learned in year one. Got a book on paper airplanes in that musty building, and also a volume—not checked out since 2001—on origami.

I ran out of take-away menus and estate agent offers, so I borrowed the neighbours’ mail. I opened it. I folded it into jets and tropical birds, then and shoved them through their mail slots. It would have been fine, except that Tuesday I smoked dope and the marshmallows didn’t sit so well and I puked on Mr. Pilar’s doormat. He complained to the porter and the porter complained to the police and they… well. Who says there is no such thing as debtor’s prison anymore?

The first time I saw Christine again, after everything fell down, was at the video store where she worked. She had grown her fingernails really long and painted them mint green. Also, she had purple hair. I still wanted to fuck her, but after I saw her like that, something made me want to smack her hard, knock that gum out of her mouth. After I started shouting, that tall-tall manager asked me to leave and I never did get to rent “Shaun of the Dead.” I just went home and watched old Dr. Who reruns. Another mistake.

All during that time I was wearing the ankle bracelet, I tried to sort through that box of shit, all those magazines and papers and dock-U-ments from HIS house. They smelled like that vanilla bean lotion his was always spreading on his hands, goddamn. It was a mistake, especially while I was confined. Every line of every piece of paper kept speaking to me, in HIS voice. That voice that always told me to pull up my socks—New Statesmen, credit card offers, insurance documents, utility bills, all of it booming at me: “Henry! Monthly Payment Plan: Save £12 a year and stay in control.” I dreamt over and over, for a week, that I wore HIS bowler hat, and the zippered cardigan he wore every Saturday, and nothing else. My cock flopped everywhere, while I gardened, cycled to work, fucked Christine, went to the pub, went to meetings. And I smelled vanilla everywhere. I never smelled anything in a dream before, or since.

You keep writing to me. All through this year, in this room. I don’t want to see you. Not your face, not your hand—fuck!—either, and least of all your soul, all the pinprick details of your life all inked out in black and white. As if I could hold any of it, any of you again. I crossed you OUT, you know. I made an ‘X’ in you, but what do you do? You keep pecking at me, an old, dried-up corpse. I’m carrion, remember? I tried Tippex, permanent marking pen, battery acid and I don’t know what—what will convince you?!

I can’t decide what really is more of a mistake—saying yes to you, or, later, saying no, Christine. I have put myself inside here. I closed the lid on it—this lovely white room. It should be still. It should be peaceful. But CLANG CLANG CLANG who is sprawling themselves—!

No. I stop. I’ve wanted this— What … No…

I have no words for it.

Remember Christine, that Sunday in February? We slept late. When we finally looked out, the entire world was carpeted in snow, thick and heavy: across the garden, across the streets, blotting out the steel, the wrought iron, the cement and brick. I walked away, reached for the remote control, but you stopped me. I opened my mouth to protest, but you stopped that too; you put that short, stubby finger over my lips and held it there while we looked at each other.
Then you walked over pushed the window open wide.

The cold air rushed in, like an impatient friend who’d been waiting to be let in. Snow fell off the sill onto our toes, but we didn’t jump or yelp. You leaned out into the grey morning, pulled me out beside you, pressing your hands into the frozen wetness. The wind blew, and we watched.

Nothing moved—no branch, no wire, no form stirred in the solid, city garden.

I inhaled and held it. There was no sound, except the wind, hollow and thin, touching the top of the new snow. The whiteness enfolded everything, holding it—down? No, I don’t think so. Maybe it was just holding it. The whiteness embraced the world, and everything lay unmoving, unrestrained, but still.

Finally, I exhaled. My breath fogged the scene. Christine, you pulled back, retracted into the day. It did not last. But again, and again, you know, it does, Christine.

In the space here, between the black marks, I can still see the white, the stillness. It holds me down.

I like you silent, Christine. The blankness seems so much bigger everyday. White expands, marshmallow through my fingers.

Shhh now. Mistakes are underneath me.

I am taking it all apart. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Walking with Bill

Everyone falls in love with you
Even though you aren't that pretty
Even though you talk rough and you're
So old now.

Lately you've been sombre
And you don't really look great
In a wetsuit.
Still, everyone falls in love
With you.

In the park, everyone else had dogs: dalamatians
Alsatians, English sheep dogs
And Scottish terriers
Wagging their ends, their wet
Noses pressed against, black on black.

But the grey morning hung wet
And I hung onto you, Bill, feeling
The whales and jaguar sharks
And seahorses press against me
Everyone falls in love with me.

Heart over mind, the bird is tumbling from the sky
I'm not talking so pretty anymore.
I'm getting grey myself, but
Everyone falls in love with you.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Left to its own devices,
My pen will drool and dribble.

The ink soaks the sheet like
Sea disappearing into the beach.

I can dig a moat around my sandy turrets
But the water still caves it all in.

When I need a buttress,
When I look forward and I see nothing but

Empty space, I find the focal point:
Adjust the shutter speed

For the cloudy-bright afternoon, then
Press and hold the button halfway.

Take focus off the inner grind.
Inside the machine, one-sixtieth of a second

Snaps, a dog gulping jerky treat,
And I capture one vision of time.

Full, the frame restrains my view;
My eyes gorge themselves on pixilated detail.

I built the fence, and I grow inside it.
I box myself into the digitized borders,

Muscles cramping over a single verb
A seed buried in a container in direct sun.

The pen lifts: it holds itself, hovering
There’s time, and no need to bleed.

Inside the frame, light cuts into slivers
Boxes and slats dividing the space again.

Ink carves the emptiness like a river.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

My Old Porch

In that song, Lyle told me about a
Steaming, greasy plate of enchiladas

With lots of cheese and onions.
Singing that song about his old porch.

I couldn’t think of my old porch that way.
My old porch hung off the house

Like a dead weight, that tongue of cement
Lolling in the front yard.

My old porch cowered like an old dog
Under—well—a porch, in the heat of the day.

It sagged, sighing in puffs of air,
That slatted swing a-barely twitching.

In the storms, my porch huddled in the against the brick
A schoolchild practicing a tornado drill.

But, at night, when the sun advanced and hid behind
The house across the street, then, finally, ran off home,

My old porch dropped its hunched shoulders
The slats of the swing undulating in the

Evening breaths. I’d perch on one step, leaning into
The softening wood post. My old porch held me

Like an old familiar hand.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


I wanted to be there early, to that sorority of women who push evolution along. I wanted to be there on time. I wanted to be there when everyone else was arriving.

I wanted to blend in, to move with the bodies that were moving already. I wanted to press my body into that one body, already making itself. Then I would not be noticed for my individuality.

I wanted to make it easy. A life made easy. One small life. That’s all I wanted.

I had a friend. She got it all so easy. Oops and she arrived, first time, even after all that coke and pot and those drink-filled nights. So easy, and they drew back the velvet rope and let her slide right in.

I didn’t want to lose it. Or if I had to lose it, I didn’t want to have it, anyway, in the first place. Something—or someone—laughed, I think, coming along, letting me peek inside, then and ripping it all out of me. Take it out, flush it, clots, down the toilet. Barred again.

I make cookies. I make paper airplanes. I make piles of rumpled, dirty clothes and I make them clean and folded. I even make the African violet bloom, sometimes.

That is, when I don’t forget. When I am not late with the things it needs. When I am not off doing whatever I did to let it all go to hell.

I am not late. I am in hell.

I wanted to be there early, but I couldn’t find the door. I couldn’t find the man who would open it.

Now I am not late. I am not late, isn’t that good?

No. I am so far behind that I have not even arrived yet.

Or maybe I’m just in the queue, the line of vacuous losers, who are never let in.

I want to be myself-plus, expanded. I want to be lush, to be flushed, and ripe.

Instead, I am gutted, rutting against the alarm, the tick-tick-tick of the calendar clock.

It’s night now, and I can push it all down in to darkness, what little darkness there is on this solstice evening.

I was young, but everyday now I am reminded that I wasted it.

I wanted to be early, to be on time. To have it. To hold.

It’s too late for that now.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Face to Love

I love this face!I saw this man on the Tube. If Colin were with me, he wouldn't have wanted me to take this photo. But he wasn't with me.

I love this face. I am not laughing or teasing. I love this man's face, his enormous glasses and drooping jowls. I think, "You know, this guy probably, maybe, doesn't like what he sees in the mirror much." Or he just sighs and doesn't think about it. But I do. I thought about the entire train journey.

What made his face fall like this? What does he do? He is dressed like a regular Brit, but is he far from his home? What does this face look like, smiling?

I wanted to be in the shop with him when he bought those frames, when he tried them on, looked in the mirror, squinting through the faux lenses, then nodding.

I want to know what he likes to read, and whether he drinks tea or coffee, or both.

One of the great joys of my life is imagining people. My life soars inside the imagined lives of people I see and don't meet.

Inside every face is a world worth knowing, worth loving. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Shrouded for Holy Week
My friend Bobbi wanted to know why I gave things up for Lent.

"Is it a spiritual thing, or more for discipline?"

I stumbled over my answer, something about sacrifice and wanting to spend that time thinking about what choices I am making everyday.

Lent is gone now and I have a whole selection of candy around the house. I can eat it whenever I like. And I do.

Bobbi is Jewish. She celebrated Passover during the first days of Holy Week. She told me, when we were at dinner last night, that she just spent the whole week not eating bread. I realized I don't know anything about Passover. I remember the angel passing over the houses that had the blood of the lamb on the doorstep. I remember that story. But I don't know much about the holy day itself, and how Jews celebrate it.
Candles at Bromton Oratory
My in-laws are lapsed Jews. The Phillips family came from the Mendoza family, a settlement of Spanish-Portugese Jews in London. My husband and his father and brother look Jewish. But they aren't anymore.

I stopped into the Brompton Oratory in Knightsbridge last week, during Holy Week. It was Holy Thursday. That's the day that Jesus washed the feet of his followers. As it says in the mass it is "the night he was betrayed." The figures of all the saints were shrouded in purple drapes. It was afternoon. A few people, women and men, old and young, were kneeling, here and there, praying. They were alone in their thoughts, but together in their prayer. One woman was saying the rosary in front of a shrouded bulk that was Mary, hidden.

I lit a candle. I prayed too, for my family: my old family and my new one. And for my future family, that I want to have. I thought of each person, individually. And I prayed thoughts for my grandparents, who Mom tells me are always looking out for me. I wondered where they are now, now that Purgatory doesn't exist any more.

I don't think 40 days and 40 nights are enough, but I can make do with that for one small promise.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sawin' on a Driver and playing it HOT!

Come into my world!
Someday I'll be heralded a genius. It will be that day when we all learn the truth about Phil Mickelson.

My husband wants to know why I think he is the devil. "Yeah, he's pure evil," Colin says. "Like when he ran off the course to be with his wife when she was giving birth. Eeee-viill!"

My friend Chris's response was "Maybe he reminds you of some bad person from your childhood."

Maybe. Or maybe HE IS the bad person from my childhood. Maybe he drove that ice cream truck by a little too slowly, the tinkle-tinkly music a backwards, sped-up version of Satanic text. Those orange push-up rocket sherberty things always tasted a little too much like baby aspirin if you ask me.

And the green jacket? The white-white teeth? The perfect family? The happy-go-lucky, aw-shucky-ness of his devil-may-care attitude. The devil may care... a little too much.

Yes, I don't know a thing about Phil Mickelson, except what vibe I get. It's all just a little too perfect. Too good to be true. Give me big boy John Daly anyday. Or Payne Stewart in his awful ugly clothes. Or Miguel Angel Jimenez and his puffy red ponytail.

Now those are some guys I can trust. Phil? Well, he may not have sold any certain part of his eternal-wear to a flame-dancing, pitch-fork-carrying, eternal entity, but according the song, the Devil did go down to Georgia and he was looking for a soul to steal.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Funny Bone

May wee! 
When you are hungry in Paris, what do you do???

You eat, well.

This we did, a weekend ago, in the Marais district, at "Le Coude Fou." I don't speak French, and Colin doesn't either. So I asked Babelfish what "Le Coude Fou" means. It means, according to Babelfish: The Insane Elbow.

Now Babelfish isn't perfect. For example. I just put that last paragraph into Babel fish, translated it into French, then that French back into English. Here's what I got:

"This us, one weekend ago, in the zone of Marsh, at "the Insane Elbow." I do not speak French, and Hake not either. Thus I requested from Babelfish what "wants to say the Insane Elbow". It average, according to Babelfish: The Alienated Elbow."

Dot Indian DinnerWell, that's close. I have great fun with this, with my friend, Daniela, who is German. She's goes to school in Nurenburg, and speaks perfect English, of course. But I like to surprise here with my excellent German. So I drop great things in occasionally that have been translated from Babelfish.

Come to think of it, she never replies to those emails. She must be very busy at school.

Anyway, I loved The Alienated Elbow very muchly, especially the American couple sitting under the painting (above). They were wearing the Americans-traveling-in-Europe uniform (loafers and khakis) and discussing the Moussaoui trial.

Oh, and at the table next to us: a table of Indian (dot Indian, not feather Indian) Brits, one of whom, I think, had very recently snorted cocaine. She spoke good French though.

Definitely better than Babelfish. But then, what do I know?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Where am I...

... In this city of
Brown and grey blocks
Averted eyes
Frigidaire days into weeks,
Into months; and those
Fetid greens that we
Never eat unless

... In this couple of
Vow takers, dressed up
Trussed up, on a May Day
Then left in knots
A tangled heap shipped away
Unfamiliar, unknown to other,
Dumped into the North Atlantic abyss?

... In this set of
Assembled body parts
Woman machinery, shuttered for years,
Plumbing shut off, plugged up
With the PILLs, so long;
A cycle squints to recognize the
Tick-tock-tocking time
In the unbroken English season?

...In this binding of
Books, bound themselves to
A sentence,
Like a judge waiting, to speak himself;
He's Tapping his pen,
Looking over the room,
Giving his promise, his word:
All those words.

Where am I?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Is this a competition?

Who are all these riotous people around me?

Mother and sonI love my camera-phone. To the unsuspecting world, it LOOKS like a phone. But I can catch you! I might just try.

I love dogs. Dogs don't care if you have a harelip. They don't care if you have simple chronic halitosis (they have the complex version anyway). They don't care if you launched rotten eggs farts all through grade school.

I also like snails, but I don't know why.

I love these people. What else do you need, if you have something as close as this?

Women go inside homes and do small things everyday. The small things are so big, there is no room to name them or list them.

I like feather pillows.