Hummingbirds are everywhere at this retreat I’m on. They drone and dart and buzz. They zip and hover. I think about Emily Dickenson, whose nature poetry I adore. She portrays bees as fantastic sailors on seas of daffodils. Aren’t those fine metaphors? What are my hummingbirds?
Komikazes? Bombers? Marauders? Winged ninjas? I watch one dip his long beak into the orange trumpet of a vine, then try to play with with the word trumpet….music, something blaring out, attracting….it wouldn’t be sound, it would be scent, yes? I scratch out orange trumpet blares/scent—you komikazi in/ dip your beak—poof–you’re gone. I’ve too many syllables, and it’s too rough, but I also have fragments, the beginnings to make haiku: 3 lines, syllables of 5/7/5…..the fun is in rearranging, finding more vivid words, staying in the syllable framework. It’s play writing, so nourishing. But I’m tired.
You do it for me.
I found out that week that Before Versailles was picked by both the Library Journal and RT Book Reviews to be included in best historical fiction of 2011…….
Long ago on a galaxy far, far away……..
Before 7th grade, she’d been her own exuberant maiden; she’d written plays, loved boys, bossed them, fought them. She’d always been full speed ahead. She’d been a leader. It’s in junior high that Hades rears up out of his dark palace and takes her to an underworld of inferiority, not enough, a place where she can’t match the ideal of femininity in the mid 1960s. She runs for class president. Friends tell her they can’t or won’t vote for her because she’s a girl. Her body betrays her. A lithe androgyny changes to busty, hippy, plump, womanly. The cool girls are slimly, primly ripe. She doesn’t have enough confidence to play Marilyn Monroe, to use the body to manipulate. But later that’s a saving grace.
She can’t go steady. Her mother and the religion they practice won’t allow it. It seems like everywhere she turns in those years there are walls around her, walls she runs into and bloodies herself upon. Her mother is secretly pleased at her failures, her mother who can really do anything, but has only been allowed the roles of wife and mother and who has married into a family of broken men, harsh, handsome men, who order women about as if they’re nothing. She loves learning, the academic piece. It’s a place where she’s allowed to achieve without disapproval. But she doesn’t have a boyfriend. She has boys who like her, but they’re not the boys she yearns for…the heroes. She wants a hero…an outer hero to reflect the inner hero she’s had to suppress.
She is years coming out of Hades. There are no Hecates around with advice. Persephone is searching for her, but she doesn’t hear her voice for a very long time.
Posted in character, Dark Angels, family, historical fiction, Karleen Koen, Now Face to Face, story and character, story and life, Through A Glass Darkly, Uncategorized
Tagged "growing up", "junior high", adolescence, Hades, Hecate, Persephone
I always tell the people who take my writing classes to listen to the Writers Almanac on NPR. You can even have its daily dose of poetry and Garrison Keillor’s commentary delivered to your email doorstep, hit a link, and hear the podcast. I tell them to listen to it because poetry is the highest writing art, requiring the perfect word and reflecting in a few lines ideas that can bring one to one’s knees. Which just recently happened. I don’t listen everyday. I think I’m too busy. But a friend of mine always emails me about poems she thinks I ought not to miss. And so I read Baptism by one Ted Thomas Jr and felt breathless when I was done because in a single sentence he captured what has happened to me around my mother. He writes in the poem of his father’s helplessness. In the last stanza, he says he “I pat him dry, he lets me dress him in the white hospital clothes, oil his hair, put him to bed and forgive him.”
Bam. That’s what’s happened in all this. I’ve forgiven the resentments I nurtured so close to my heart. In the bathing and dressing and feeding, in her shuffling daily endless need, something has dropped, but not by my insistence. There is only breathless, painful witnessing of frailty, and my attendance upon it as best I can, some days far better than others. This last slow dance we’re in is immediate and huge. All else is nothing.
Posted in character, creativity, Dark Angels, family, historical fiction, Karleen Koen, life, love, Now Face to Face, story and family, story and writing, Through A Glass Darkly, Uncategorized, writing, writing process
Tagged "Garrison Keillor", "Ted Thomas Jr.", "Writers Almanac", Alzheimer's, baptism, mother, poetry
listening to moby as i take down christmas a song’s lyrics vibrate inside me at least we were together holding hands flying through the sky he sings i remember one of the only dreams about my father long gone stern and remote we were flying through the sky holding hands under us pyramids even then the dream seemed profound all these years later the song rings through me and i think of all that wasnt ours closeness understanding rapport but at least we were together flying through the sky holding hands just the way moby sings the way we never did in life this life anyway
Where were you when Barack Obama became the next president of the United States? The emotion of the election Tuesday night will remain in my memory, just as I remember where I was when John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy were killed. The wound around the assassinations of my girlhood and young womanhood has been somehow opened for cleansing with this man from Illinois’s election. I’ve been crying on and off since Tuesday, when I see a photo of his shining smile, or read again one of his potent quotes, or see photos or videos of people’s happiness and amazement. Idealism again? Possibility again? Devotion to the higher ground again? John McCain’s concession speech was eloquent, truly gracious and even better, truly patriotic. In that moment I loved him, and when he called Obama “my president,” I started crying all over again and thought, you are indeed, at your best, a grand old man, all that is best in the word: warrior. Historical novels are built off the emotion and memories of moments like this past week.
I want to mention two lovely and deep memoirs out there, one by my agent Jean Naggar, called Sipping From the Nile. Jean writes of her life in a closely knit banking family in Egypt, their exile because of politics, and the remaking of a life in Europe and New York. The other memoir is by a spiritual mentor, Dunya Dianne MePherson. Called Skin of Glass, it is the story of her interior and exterior journey from gifted performer to Sufi mystic and gifted performer.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged "Barack Obama", "Bobby Kennedy", "Dunya Dianne McPherson, "Jean Naggar", "John Kennedy", "Martin Luther King", "Twin Towers", Add new tag, Challenger, history, Karleen Koen, memoir, Sufi
There may or may not be a new entry on Monday (15th), when I usually post. Hurricane Ike is coming our way. I’m not right on the coast, but close enough to get lots of rain and wind. If power’s up, so will I be. If not, I’ll be back when I can. All my fellow coastal Texans, stay dry and safe…..
that woman today at the bus stop with the little boy in her lap she so tired so gallant looking the sadness of her mouth the worry on her brow the boy so fat brown succulent so good as if he knew he mustn’t stress his mother at all the way she held him in her lap at first i thought he was asleep but he was just still very still like a baby animal that senses danger her shoes her best black slightly frayed at the heels uncomfortable for walking she was hot and tired of carrying the heavy baby hose a dress not flattering but good why was she dressed up for an interview was she a student did she speak English my throat got tight with my lack of Spanish what if I’d spoken to her told her how lovely her brown eyed still boy was the van that drove up was new was nice was she distressed i thought so beautiful little boy whose face resembled his mother’s
Posted in Before Versailles, character, Dark Angels, Karleen Koen, life, Now Face to Face, story and family, story and life, story and writing, Through A Glass Darkly, Uncategorized, writing, writing process
Tagged "bus stop", Karleen Koen, life, poetry, prose, seeing something that made me write, writing process