Killing White Space

Mommy

"The predominant note will seem one of bitterness, and bitterness there is, to the full. But there is also a wild extravagance, a mad gaiety, a verve, a gusto, at times almost a delirium. A continual oscillation between extremes, with bare stretches that taste like brass and leave the full flavor of emptiness." - Anaïs Nin, 1934.

In left hand, Anaïs Nin giving posy to Miller’s Tropic of Cancer for burning away scars “the scars left by the obstetricians of culture.” In right hand, I sponge-scrub food stains off my son’s jeans so he can wear them again.

Rough beginning of a short story maybe. Wrote it by dictating into my iPhone while driving. Can’t always control when inspiration hits :)
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Pavlova’s eyes were not electric; they were lagoons, leagues deep, shadowy shades of green. She had a shock of dark straight hair— dyed to cover grey—which she pulled into a haphazard bun. She had olive skin and long sinewy arms with labor-cut muscles. She set out a plate of stuffed aubergines for me every day before work. Nikos would have preferred she offer something less expensive but she knew that the aubergines were my favorite.

Pavlova was Bulgarian but had been a Greek resident for years. She must have been striking once but her voice was harsh from smoking and her fingers always clutched a hand-rolled cigarette the spine of which she’d lick before lighting.

She cherished me like a flashy, new American toy and spoke to me slowly and deliberately in broken English. But through the shards I understood she ran away young to escape a domineering mother.

Her nails bitten down, hands rough— she always worked. Besides cooking at Levantis where I waitered, she cleaned one of the seaside hotels that a Greek lover owned, and it seemed to me she was a craggy rock, smoothed by the constant lashings of flowing water.

This was her today, but there was something inside her, a pubescent heart, that had been preserved like a Greek relief in anticipation and longing— the unrequited desire for a man three times her age, whom her mother could never permit.

South American Cash-Buyers

The high rise condos slice the soft morning sky at jagged angles. Ominous geometric shapes stealing ocean from the rest of us. Backlit by the sun, the towering facades of tinted windows glisten and refract light like gemstones. But we’ve heard that siren song before- a radiant dream with windows of fool’s gold.

Wrote a new entry for the ever-inspiring Doodlers Anonymous

Gwion Christmas’s drawings are replete with images of feverish expression. Communication, or rather frustrated communication, is everywhere. Language seems confused or interrupted as if there is something important to convey, that’s unheard. There are lines from mouths that circle and intersect but never make it from speaker to audience, there is a conversation in shapes, and there are detached speech bubbles littered throughout. As a lover of expression and a lover of words, I love Gwion. You will too.image



The Atlantic breeze gently rustled the pages, and the white light reflected hard. Grateful for reading Hemingway at the beach.

The Atlantic breeze gently rustled the pages, and the white light reflected hard. Grateful for reading Hemingway at the beach.

First Sunset on Paros (April 25, 1996)

We sat on the balcony with white wine and cheap cigarettes,
and through the white arch,
watched the sun set.
Embarrassed by our keen and unrelenting observation,
she blushed.
The sky became a deep sapphire,
yet hints of her flushed cheeks remained.
And as the crags and cliffs became unidentifiable
in the seeping darkness,
lights appeared sporadically—
flickering, winking eyes waking for night shift.
A tree, now merely a silhouette,
became a black sketch against the fading polychromatic sky.
Then sky, too, became black as a Greek widow’s scarf.
A few boats lingered on the Aegean,
only visible as flecks of light, like stars.
And the sea and sky were reflections of each other.

The Time Machine

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The four of us with two yellow paddles on blue sticks, pushed off from the shore. The water was murky green from a distance, but translucent and congealed up close — like slicing lime gelatin with an oar. The day was bright making colors hyper real, digitized. The blue of a cloudless sky was light and detached in contrast to the green of mangrove leaves, of the intracoastal, of our forest green metal canoe, which seemed to pull hard against the air, weighing down. The sun slapped me against the face; heavy-handed beams blinded me.

The canoe wobbled right and left under our amateur strokes as we glided past mangrove roots, which at low tide, seemed apologetic and sad. Like emaciated grey arms, they stretched toward the seawater for respite, but the tide pulled back. King Tantalus eternally doomed to be unquenched —- to stretch for fruit and bend for water that recedes. Black sea crabs laid siege to the feeble roots, crawling the limbs freely like soil bugs on a cadaver. This morose image was so out of place amidst the vibrancy of the day, and so was heightened the more for it.  

We leaned to watch the fish skitter. The silver minnows were so plentiful and unending in their stream that the shallow water seemed to be made of their metallic reflections, as if the movement of the minnows created the water itself, created the ripples.

The canoe slid under a tunnel of corrugated metal, topped with sandbags, then cement. Pedestrians walked atop the bridge as we swept past beneath. “Helloooo” we called, and for the moment our timelines intersected with theirs.

We called the tunnel our time machine and pretended it threw us five seconds ahead into the future. Five seconds stretched and preserved in the details.

’80s Dance Party

Black sea, under a black sky— dark water touching air without horizon, without firmament. Stillness kissing silence. At once, empty and full. No sense of what may teem beneath the meager whitecaps created by the ship splitting water.

The cruise ship like a discarded harlot — red rouge smeared, hair tousled— tore the night. Strung lights, amplified music and toes crushed into heels as the waves hurled us across deck, port to starboard and back. And we danced to Michael Jackson.

Golden Age Thinking

I sit in our backyard on the royal blue-colored string hammock we purchased in Key West, strung from our white-washed wood pergola. Feet brushing the patio floor but enough give and sway to feel simultaneously freely adrift and nauseated. My mind swings. Key West burns my brain: Sloppy Joe, Pauline, Whitehead Street. And before, Paris: the Select, the Dome, Montparnasse, the Left Bank. I feel an ache, acute, for what is lost but was never mine to mourn. I yearn for that time, nonetheless, to sit in the cafes, the discourse, the community. But I sit, during the week, miles and years away, behind a computer in a law office, nostalgia burning a hole in my heart, a postcard of Hemingway scotch taped to my monitor.

 Wynwood/ Art Basel 
The page bekons (sic)
The poem accompanies me through the night: plumes of cigarette smoke inhaled by the fibers; fingers - moist with subtropic sweat - rub down words, smearing type. I crease the paper, clutching too hard: trying to avoid urine on a splattered toilet stall - paper long used by heeled women in fedoras; avoiding condensation of the iced vodka in my other hand- without tonic, which too, is long gone.The poet sitting on a corner, somehow hushed,beneath the orange tinge of the street light and amidst the bustling parade of party and people reveling, and art-appreciating. In muted neutral color, he hunches over a typewriter - matching his suit in era and style.I think of Midnight in Paris. I think of A Moveable Feast. I think I want a distressed wood table with an uneven leg and a dark-amber liquor: a rum, a whiskey, a bourbon. And a conversation.I read a paper scrap which his fingertips gingery slide from a stack of same loosely piled in a vintage suitcase on his left. To my right- I face him.I read the word rum and can’t recall the rest. I think Cuba. I think guayabera. There are typos which I point out. He says: “I only go forward. I never go back.” But he lies.We all go back, selectively. I go back to a time when I was bold as the poet on a corner typing poems for tips. Writing as performance art.Rony paid twenty dollars for my poem. For some reason, I like that he overpaid. The poem begins quite perfectly: “The page bekons”. But there are words crossed out by X’s. There are revisions, emendations. He went back too.

 Wynwood/ Art Basel 

The page bekons (sic)

The poem accompanies me through the night: plumes of cigarette smoke inhaled by the fibers; fingers - moist with subtropic sweat - rub down words, smearing type. I crease the paper, clutching too hard: trying to avoid urine on a splattered toilet stall - paper long used by heeled women in fedoras; avoiding condensation of the iced vodka in my other hand- without tonic, which too, is long gone.

The poet sitting on a corner, somehow hushed,beneath the orange tinge of the street light and amidst the bustling parade of party and people reveling, and art-appreciating. In muted neutral color, he hunches over a typewriter - matching his suit in era and style.

I think of Midnight in Paris. I think of A Moveable Feast. I think I want a distressed wood table with an uneven leg and a dark-amber liquor: a rum, a whiskey, a bourbon. And a conversation.

I read a paper scrap which his fingertips gingery slide from a stack of same loosely piled in a vintage suitcase on his left. To my right- I face him.

I read the word rum and can’t recall the rest. I think Cuba. I think guayabera. There are typos which I point out. He says: “I only go forward. I never go back.” But he lies.

We all go back, selectively. I go back to a time when I was bold as the poet on a corner typing poems for tips. Writing as performance art.

Rony paid twenty dollars for my poem. For some reason, I like that he overpaid. The poem begins quite perfectly: “The page bekons”. But there are words crossed out by X’s. There are revisions, emendations. He went back too.