Saturday, April 17, 2010


Lola's eyes are like planets, each yellow iris ridged with subtle shades of brown, green, like tiny hills, plateaus of earth. When the pupils are full, the iris is just a crest of yellow moon. Crescents of light.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Paper Tiger

I’m fascinated with this whole printing process, much more impressed by the factory than I am by our top salesman’s million-dollar account.

I stand beside a stack of wooden pallets and watch Rubie go to work. He’s the Feeder for this press, meaning that the whole job depends on whether or not he can keep the paper moving. He stands with legs straddled in front of the latest four-foot-wide roll he’s about to feed into the machine. The paper is dull--high-bulk, they call it--and the press can run off about 60,000 impressions in minutes. He hits a few buttons on the console to the left, slashes a perfect inverted triangle on the front of the roll with a razor he stores between his teeth, then rips off the excess paper.

He winds the “junk” paper around and around into a four-foot-long cone, then hefts it with both arms to the right into a large recycle basket. The cone sails past my head on its way to the basket, a little too close for comfort. Drops of sweat spring up on Rubie’s brow--the temperature is always fifteen degrees warmer in the factory than it is outside. He slaps some double-sided tape onto the inverted triangle, then feeds it carefully beneath arm-length metal clamps. The last roll is just about to sputter away, until the clamps lift the new roll up and into place. He now has five minutes to rest.

I’m getting bored with all this work, so I start bouncing on my toes with my fists raised, swinging around like a shadowboxer.
He glances at me and cracks a half-smile. “You’re a nut case!” he yells.

Thirty feet away, at the front of the press, the supervisor turns to peer down at us. I immediately drop my impromptu boxing stance. Rubie fiddles with the controls in his Rollstand, and I smooth down my wrinkled dress shirt.

“Hey, I’m gonna take off!” I yell.
Rubie turns, wiping the sweat from his forehead with the back of a hand. The gesture stirs a strange feeling inside me, like longing, or subdued pain. Before he can say anything, I step into the small, hot enclosure of the Rollstand and pull him into my arms. He doesn’t resist, and I feel his chest, solid and warm as his body bends to mine.

I hold onto him for the briefest second as the presses rumble all around us. Then I stretch upward--he’s taller than me by only an inch or so--and whisper, “Merry Christmas” into his ear. I kiss him on the cheek and pull away, my courage now fading. He doesn’t move, only looks at me with softened eyes and an impossibly young face. A strong urge to cry rises in my throat, so I spin around and head for the back door. I remember, as I clamber down the metal steps, that Rubie is impractical, that together we are a volatile mix. I have to keep balancing on that tightrope, keep my sights on the other side.

But it's never easy.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Fire Sister

She singsongs incessantly, like a nagging little bird, getting more and more insistent the more she is ignored. There are times when her head aches, when her words jumble, like magnetic poetry that has slithered off the fridge into an incoherent mess on the floor.

She is a child of fire, hard-scrabble, stubborn, tenacious, an orchid growing through muck. Strong, willful, passionate. Terrified. Alone. Flawed. She is the sun and the moon and the wind and the clover. Ghetto and field and nature and city. Her fire builds up and up, consuming her from the inside until it burns itself out and leaves her exhausted shell behind.

And then she does it all over again.

Bike Ride

We cross over Spring Road and hit the path going west. To the left are the sides of buildings or the silhouettes of houses. To the right are the wild flowers and grasses, some taller than my head, all bursting in a riot of black, orange, yellow, and pink.

I push harder on the pedals and inhale the scent of clover, the smell that makes me think of bees and prairies. The sky is robin's egg blue without a puff of cloud in it, and the sun beats down. I can smell the heat on my skin, the fabric softener wafting from my T-shirt.

As we near the bridge over Salt Creek I pump harder to get up the hill. I lead with my heart as I push into the ascent. My blood is singing, my breath is rhythmic, and I am alive, alive, alive.


It's night time. I'm sitting at my desk--it's covered in books, stacks and stacks of them. The glossy screen of my monitor is before me but aside from the blinking cursor, it's blank.

I never IM anybody besides you, you know.

When it's late like this and the house is dark and quiet and no one else is awake but me I can't help but think about you. About the countless times we talked--over IM--for hours. How sometimes at 3 in the morning in an exhausted haze I felt like nothing else existed in the world but me and you--my words traveling hundreds of miles over the airwaves to where you sat on your bright red couch, barefoot, head covered by your hoodie, a scratchy beard covering your're drinking rosé because it's classy, or because it's what writers drink, or maybe it's all you have in your apartment. Maybe you've dug up some whiskey and are pleased by the color of it in a highball glass, the light catching amber and silver, the ice cubes clinking. Maybe you even light a cigarette just for the hell of it, to break the monotony or the silence, pondering your next words to me before your fingers skip across the keyboard, misspelling. Always misspelling.

Undoubtedly you'll say something that pisses me off, something that reiterates how cold you are, how alone and indifferent you are, how you don't need anyone. But before I can respond with some biting remark you'll temper it all with something that warms me or brings tears to my eyes, the old "save me/ leave me alone/ let me drown" push-and-pull thing that sucks me back every time.

Tonight the screen is blank.