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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Swamp

Knee-deep in sludge, Max Pelter surveyed the gray mist hovering over the swamp land like hot steam rising from a vat of scalding tar. Tall, spindly shrubs protruded from the water, partially blocking his view of the open circle where his rowboat drifted in a daze.

It had been a mistake trying to rescue the damn thing, after he noticed the boat wading from the bank as he stood at the forest line, debating on whether to pursue the heron he’d been tracking for three hours. Now here he was, stuck in the mud, struggling to pull his legs from slushy brown goo. With nothing to grab onto, his strains were futile.

Damn it! he yelled to the dismal air and brushed his muddied hand against a brow, wiping a loamy streak over the beads of sweat at his temple.

A lone, coy bird sang a long note to answer him, and then all was silent again.

Irritated, Max tried to kick his legs forward, but the wet soil was firmly molded around them, refusing to budge or bend. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a bluish-gray blur at the edge of the bank. Dipping its beak into the water for a drink was the heron he’d been chasing. It was just Max’s luck the frigging bird would approach him when he couldn’t do a thing about it.

The heron lifted its long neck and eyed Max trapped in the marsh. Realizing it was well out of harm’s way, it lingered at the water, watching with what Max would swear was a bemused expression.

A lot of good you are, standing there useless to me, Max cursed the bird. All you’re good for is being mounted on my wall.

The heron blinked at Max and turned to amble away from the ornery man, which left Max alone again to dwell on the circumstances which led him into this predicament, stuck in a swamp with nowhere to go.

– Written by Miss A on July 31, 2012

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Cake

 

I

Groom and bride planted

in sugary snow frosting

their fake, plastic smiles

II

Sweet crystal petals

sliced in two by sharpened blade

bleeds red on each tier

III

Cake dry and tasteless

crumbling quickly off the forks

will split the marriage

IV

May the silk fondant

smashed on your cheeks and noses

mirror your future

Carrots

Carrots breed lies. So do bread crusts, for that matter. I didn’t want to eat either one when I was a kid, but unfortunately for me, I lived in one of those homes where plates had to leave the dinner table clean and bare of the meal we’d been served against our choice or will. There were children starving in Africa, after all, and they would certainly appreciate the bland grilled chicken, steamed broccoli and carrots lumped on our plates. I offered to send mine to Africa, imagining some poor, African child opening a small brown cardboard box and staring blankly at Mother’s tasteless food. Or maybe he’d jump up and down for joy. I certainly didn’t when the same predictable meal was served night after night after night after my mother joined the Jenny Craig weight loss plan.

Mother wouldn’t let me follow through with mailing dinner across the Atlantic so I made do with the lot I was given, dousing the chicken with an abundant sprinkling of salt and pepper and slathering the broccoli with a pat of butter. But there was not much I could do with those short, orange sticks, depleted of flavor after sitting in the steamer for a while. I really hated eating them, just like bread crusts, but Mother told me carrots would give me perfect eyesight for my entire life and bread crusts would bestow me with sleek, shiny hair, and then she would force me to eat them before I could leave the table. Despite my disgruntled feelings about eating food I didn’t like, I actually believed her stories about perfect eyes and hair – she was the adult, after all, and she would know better than I what foods could make you pretty and perfect and which pieces of junk food were made from disgusting whale blubber and prunes. Thank goodness for those bits of fact to steer me away from gum and soda – otherwise, all their sugars might have rotted my brain before I was old enough to learn the truth.

The truth emerged during adolescence when surging hormones took my sleek, shiny blonde hair and transformed it into a thick mass of frizz which only behaved under a can of hairspray. No amount of bread crusts could undo the damage of puberty. Then a routine eye and ear exam at school landed me at the optometrist’s office getting fitted for glasses because I couldn’t read the bottom rows of letters without squinting my eyes real, real hard. All those carrots had been in vain. The starving child in Africa may have fared better than my unmanageable hair and disintegrating eyes; and still Mother continued to recite her lies, modifying the story to say carrots would keep my blurred vision from getting worse. I couldn’t win against the woman who claimed to know everything, yet I learned to take her words with a grain of salt – it may not have changed her grand delusions about how to acquire perfection, but it certainly made them easier to swallow. Just like chicken.

– Written by Miss A on July 24, 2012

Grilled cheese

I wish there was a home-cooked meal spread across that table over there. A gigantic bowl of buttery garlic mashed potatoes with a sprig of rosemary sleeping soundly atop fluffy clouds of creamy goodness. Crisp green beans drizzled with olive oil and thyme. Or long, fat asparagus drizzled with a velvety balsamic vinaigrette. Sweet curried carrots lightly hugged with fresh golden honey. Light, flaky biscuits with pools of butter swimming in warm, hollowed centers. Savory sweet potato casserole, browned on top. Romaine lettuce, loosely chopped and adorned with goat cheese pearls, dried cranberry rubies, and sugar-glazed pecan nuggets.

There at that table I would admire my feast, dipping a spoon into the potato clouds and cinnamon orange lakes of yam, relishing their delicious, smooth textures skating gracefully across my tongue. Biscuits would melt like wafers between my idle teeth, which eagerly anticipated crunching through beans and asparagus, crushing tangy flavors into the earthy greens, swirling together around excited taste buds.

How I would dine – like the servant who has snuck a seat at the king’s table when no one is around to see – stuffing my stomach to my heart’s delight.

But, alas, that meal may be placed in another man’s dining room, and not in mine, for all the fridge has stored is a dab of grease, half a loaf of stale bread, and two slices of pungent cheddar. So while the mind craves the scrumptious cuisine I have described above, the mouth must settle on the ol’ fashioned fallback staple slapped up and down the griddle – grilled bread married with melted cheese.

– Written on July 15, 2012

Reflection

I take the words you give me, I beat them across my chest. Then tear, tear, tear down their skins, stripping them to the stark bone core. Is that where I find the truth? I can’t be sure.

Kindness plays tricks, but so do doubt and fear, leading me into ivy halls and porcelain labyrinths, misguiding me in directions where I should have walked away.

Should have. Could have. Would have. But I did not. I climbed into muddy holes, blindly reaching for concrete among the goo. I floated atop clouds, transcended the big picture with my bird’s-eye view. I wandered lost through forests of thick, gnarled trees, their limbs pointing toward the fog which crept in the brush.

I sit in rooms with four empty walls from which I once tried to erase the past and draw out the future, but the pen drew blank. Whatever invisible ink is etched into this paint remains unseen to the naked eye, and we are left to guess. Memories render crystal clear black where I try to place the picture of what I saw, who moved there, how did we speak. And the words trickle away with the tide, only to rush forward and pummel me in the storm.

Pain is the syrup which binds the crisp, flaky crusts of everything else together. The sweet dessert you tell yourself to avoid. By trying to ignore it, you find yourself craving it twice as much. Healthy moments are not enough to digest – they are bland and tasteless to the rich textures of anguish and remorse, longing and desire. Those do not melt and crumble as easily in the hands.

It is the pure elation of joy that I wish could last forever; how fleeting it feels among the rocks and boulders. A butterfly resting on the shoulder until it is jostled and flies away.

These words which tumble, stagger, or flow through me, drawing out feral wails, jovial laughs, clandestine smiles, as I cup them in my hands and hold them to my lips. I pull the air from deep within, and in one long breath, I blow them all away.

– Written by Miss A on July 11, 2012

Sunrise

There is only one sunrise I can touch with my memory, recalling vividly the brilliant spectacle of an orange-red sun sashaying slowly down the fuchsia clouds that were sprawled across the sky as it greeted my place in the world.

I stood on a sandy beach in Moorea, where I had traveled with a friend who was entertaining a Frenchman in our shared hotel room. I’d woken at five and crept out the door to give them some time alone. Where I wandered along the main road winding around the tiny island, roosters and chickens roamed like zombies, half-asleep as they scoured small yards for discarded pecks of bread and seed.

With a camera at my eye, I snapped pictures of the gray-blue morning, which was far from muted by a tropical radiance which I had not seen in other points on the globe. Around a bend, I captured a toilet sitting desolately amidst the crumbled ruins of a long-destroyed house adjacent to the lot where a small, white church was not ready to wake. It was between these relics that I walked toward the lapping lagoon to check for the sun which had yet to appear. Across the silver sky, a sliver of salmon and crimson red floated above the distant sea-line, laced in a vibrant tangerine.

The show was starting, and I stood there, waiting for the main event, observing the long, wooden pier which jutted across my view but subtle enough not to interrupt the spiritual rising about to take place. Low clouds on the horizon elatedly snatched the tinges of rose, plum, and lavender which were being tossed into the heavens, announcing the hint of a blushing sun that peeked over the water’s edge. How coy it played to this audience, when I knew its powerful glare was far from shy or bashful, but for one to appreciate its true magnificent range and the influence it stretched above us all, this was the entrance it conceived for that day. I was witnessing the birth of a sun.

The glowing coral ball rising in the east commanded pause and reflection, spreading its warm rainbow cape along the horizon during its steady ascent. Soft peach swirled and blended with gold-hued pinks, which melted against violet threads and lilac splashes. The blackened lagoon waters lightened to a pale blue as they sparkled and waved toward their familiar friend, reaching longingly for a glimpse of the colors it ceremoniously painted across the sky’s wall.

In this hour, the sun was king, and I, its loyal follower. Grateful for his light, his constant warmth while he watched over us all and nudged us from our beds, I could not help but appreciate the day I’d been given after witnessing his rise, beholding the beauty of simple nature always surrounding me, yet often going unnoticed in my busier days.

Somewhere today, that sun rises again over infinite waters, and perhaps there is a stranger who stands on the edge of an island, reveling in the change of a world as its awakened by our greatest star.

– Written by Miss A on July 10, 2012

a Puddle

A puddle

What a muddle

Of swirly greens

Blues, reds, and purple

Drifting leaves

In yellows and browns

Curling around…

Floating as one

Shiny, rainbow picture

Amidst black rocks

Drunk with oil

Tar reeking

On steamy breath

Under heated gray sky

Seared by lightning

– Written by Miss A on July 6, 2012