No. 9

August 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

Playing vagabonds, driving through
an Edward Hopper painting;
the sky is flat and young

and she tries not to be like your mother.

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Venita

August 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

I speak softer for goodbyes so you’ll know honeyed reluctance – sweeter
in the spoken of it – dripping slow with the tick of Venita. She breathes like a clock

and goodbye sticks with her rise and fall
reminding, that –

in the billowing of the walls after midnight when flowered paper
becomes a visage of a dark child’s slumber
wound up in poison and thorns and dark fairy tales: if they could ooze somewhere
they would ooze like molasses from the china walls

reminding that

– you are not here. I think the walls
forgot
to let you in.

So I speak softer – fresh honey –
and the dull
night
exits with Venita, waking.

Khaki Tents

October 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

My tennis coach wore white like a lie, accessorizing his Mr. Clean white polo and his khaki shorts with a ruddy leer.

I was fourteen and chunky when I started taking tennis lessons, with nothing to worry about in terms of unwanted male attention. I had plenty of unwanted attention from myself, and once I met my coach, I reveled in my rolls. My cousins, my beauty queen, harpist, pianist, horse-back riding cousins, on the other hand, had none of my happy troubles. Their trophies from modeling competitions were taller than me. Taller than them, even. And I wasn’t the only one who noticed Erica’s strawberry-blonde and freckle combination, or Erin’s premature curves.

I watched my coach that first day. Felt my tennis racket falter in the air when I saw him teaching Erica the right hand position. We were learning how to serve. He stood behind her, positioned her hand on the newly-taped racket, guided her body through a serve. It could be so innocent. It was, until I saw his eyes as they consumed her, enveloped her in his want and I ran to the back fence and threw up my water and my granola bar, panting in the summer wet that rolled off the tennis court. Told my mother something about “being overheated.”But that was the moment I look to. The moment when I began to realize adults weren’t safety. Adults weren’t better or stronger or more moral than I was. They wrote the system that I lived under, and sometimes that system could put its hand on my waist and get away with it.

Sometimes that system could make us run laps while he stood in the middle of the court, arms crossed, feet planted, grinning at us as we jogged. My best friend explained the term “pitching a tent” to me that same summer and in disgust, I remembered the khaki tent on the tennis courts and wondered how our mothers never saw.

Clay foot

September 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

My grey mother with the red clay feet, her weekends in the garden building and razing down the pathways and small wild places to make a turning winding labyrinthine that swallowed stray cats and small children.  I drew a map to find my way home from my own days in her backyard grass, with the hard spiked sweet gum balls falling from the trees overhead and sticking in my tumble down brown curls. I came in some days on my own bare feet clay red and sticky, slapping on linoleum to a different rhythm than hers, shoe-clad still and disapproving of nature on her floor. Nature in her house, where I brought it in to make my own: small summer snow people, stuck together with chunky glue and sweet gum balls, smiling googly eyes; they hung on the tree at Christmas or vanished in my closet midway through the fall when I made and she didn’t see. My mother doesn’t meet the things I made; all that nature art was just a glue-stuck shot-in-the-dark for a small “good job” and in the lack of that, that’s when I saw my mother, my mother and her feet of clay inside. When cobbled nature art became poetry and I glued words together instead, with a slow methodical tap of a keyboard between brother’s war games and mother’s working and dial-up when friends called. When I found something that made me feel alive, real, like breathing had meaning if only to communicate what breath is like on the page, as if to put words to the feelings we all have, feelings we run into in the grocery store, or in the park, walking and we recognize their faces because they’ve been here before but we’ve never had the courage to stop them, pause them, shake their hand and ask their name and know them by the way they make us think. When I made and built and poured out my young soul like pancake batter on a Saturday morning but she never plugged in the griddle so I sat and curdled in mid-afternoon. The small things she couldn’t see for the mess they made, never the “good job” affirmation I wanted in words on paper not in microwaved dinner or dry rye bread. Mother’s red clay feet – I thought I saw them, saw them in the yelling and the fighting and the way she’d puff herself up fragile and airy but strong in the breath of her like a bird ruffling growing and she was never bigger than him but sometimes her words were sharper and faster, chainsaw rumbling and they cut him straight through. Him, my father tree trunk walking teddy bear loving but stumbling because he forgot or saw something more important- I work late nights because I love you – he was never there but we all forgot the reason and absence of him was an absence of love. But there were no oysters or late nights at the bars laughing and growing and living a way we never got to, he was always late nights at the office, working long past closing to keep his company alive, keep his family eating and laughing and his sacrifice was losing her love. But he kept her, he kept us warm and fed and safe and loved in the moments he was there, the brief blips of time when life was more than work and he could show us how he held us in his soul, how he wrapped those pictures of us ’round his mind under the flickering tired lights of work. Father’s feet of clay were dusted in metallic shavings, metal in the skin of his hands by the time I looked at them closely. Tired old hands too young curling tightly round the things he wanted for his family. And they, they with their feet of clay, raising me and raising him and owning that we’d be whatever we decided but never telling us we could be anything, because parents don’t lie to their kids. Parents feet of clay, moving slowly across the lives of the children that love gave them, giving of everything that was, until love was a slice of dry rye bread and late night absence said I love you better than we all could tongue by tongue.

Elephant Tears

September 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

Doris, flipping pancakes at seven sharp. Grandparents always up earlier than normal people. The chair was too high but I made it up. I am stronger than they realize. Doris flipped a pancake straight on my plate. It was an elephant and for a minute it was flying. My pancake elephant. I made him slurp hot syrup from my white plate. Felt mean a minute, cause it was probably real hot. Might have burned him, even. My face got wet cause I felt bad. Doris asked why and I didn’t think she’d understand so I just ate my elephant to put him out of his misery.

Kody got up, too. He must have been fighting his pillow. His hair looked like hedgehogs. I said so, but he didn’t see me. He asked for a jet fighter. Dumb. Machines can’t be pancakes. He made a noise like a jet fighter. Called it sonic boom and made my ears hurt. I asked Doris what sound an elephant makes. She made a noise like grandpa’s trumpet, like the sunrise sound he wakes us up with. I tried, but Kody laughed at me. My sounds are still too small. 

Doris taught us painting at the kitchen table. I got paint on my hands and my clothes but Grandpa smiled when I painted him an elephant. Grandpa never smiles, except this time, or when he has soup. He even put my painting on his door, with tape so it’ll stay forever. My little baby elephant. I didn’t hurt that one.

 

Speak

September 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

Her shirt was wrinkled. He couldn’t find his tie. Sunday morning rushed around, muffled in rough brown carpet.

I sat and waited and painted over the elephant on the wall. I heard him bursting out of the pond, trumpeting, his big flat feet pounding heavy. I thumped my feet, too, but they just made a little clicking sound and no one really heard.

She tumbled in with a bow in her hand and I scrambled away behind the spinning chair. It stayed between us and she didn’t have time to fight me. Her shirt wrinkled in her brief effort.

Crammed in a car seat and squirming in an itchy dress. You’ll wrinkle it. A vindictive good tugged on my eyebrows.

They took me to a room of babbling little people and left me there. We’ll be back in an hour. I was trapped amid a sea of leaky noses and drool and no one had enough sense to hold a conversation. The teacher talked on and on about a grandfather who built a boat and I knew that story and she didn’t tell it right.

I felt like time-out. Sunday morning dragged on and I thought church was silly.

They came back, eventually, and indifference tugged on my eyebrows this time. Mother came to my level, where things made more sense, and asked me if I liked it there.

I held my hips in defiance, the way she did when I wouldn’t wear my bows.

Mother, the teacher and I are the only people who can speak. 

For the Locally Curious

January 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

There is a distinct personality to every city, fashioned not by polished department stores or chain restaurants reserving familiarity for the traveler far from home, but rather by the “roughs and beards and space and ruggedness and nonchalance” that Walt Whitman recognized as the very character of the American spirit. This character is expressed by the Mom-and-Pop businesses, the made-by-locals-for-locals mentality that continues to carve out a niche for the American ideals of independence and hard work that good ‘ol, air-bathing Ben Franklin advocated all those years ago.

I realize there are a lot of big, expressive words and archaic literary references in that paragraph. If you made it this far, congratulations, I salute your intrepid spirit. Now, forward! Onward! Explore!

On the bustling blocks of Oklahoma City and its northern suburban sister, Edmond, there lies a wealth of small businesses which recognize and revel in the “Keep-It-Local” movement. “It” being creative business. None of this outsourcing stuff; we want originality we can brag about, originality that will foster a better, stronger local community.

That’s what the Keep-It-Local movement is about: celebrating and supporting This Land and all its artistic effusions, be they in the form of handmade soy candles or gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches with unexpected ingredients like pears, pesto, or potatoes.

Keep-It-Local card in hand, the Culture Canary will be sacrificing the contents of a small bank account to support local businesses and bring all findings of culinary, artistic, and homemade perfection straight to you, the locally curious. So stick around; there’s a lot to read, see, and eventually visit yourself.

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