Thursday, September 27, 2012

Is everybody okay with the word "Vagina"?

            Piper visited the doctor in the spring. Dave only left a month earlier when she got the automated reminder call. Six months ago something came back abnormal. Now they wanted to do a biopsy. And that was as much as she knew. Abnormal and biopsy were bucket-words filled with a multitude of possible meanings, but in her resignation, she didn’t ask for clarification. She just showed up.

            Piper remembered to bring her own book for the waiting area. She’d forgotten enough times and had to restrain herself from ripping out page after page of the parenting magazines. So she stared at the book, and stopped listening or looking or receiving any information that her nerves may have sent her. This was also a part of the routine. Ever since the thing had started bleeding she was making more than regular trips to these closets of prodding. At first it was the debilitating cramps followed by the discovery of an unusual shape, invisible from the outside. The delicate ecosystem of her body was always in crisis. Bacteria at war with yeast. They couldn’t live together peacefully. Sometimes famine, sometimes pestilence, and sometimes even violence. Every new lover meant at least one trip to the doctor, whether for a UTI or birth control. She felt like it was a confessional with the lights turned way up, a place she was forced to debrief her shame, to silently admit that another one didn’t work out.

            Usually she went into the offices that like looked like hotel kitchenettes, but because today was a more elaborate procedure, she was led into a full sized room cluttered with carts and unhooked machines. She sat in the corner and waited for the nurse to come and take her blood pressure. Above the sink was a grid of small plastic drawers. Each drawer had a black and white diagram of the tool it contained. They all appeared to be variation on a basic structure: a wire loop on the end of a stick. The concept, Piper imagined, was very similar to the method used in her ceramic classes from college. Use the wire to circle the block of clay, then close it in on itself to lop off the head. This is what would be happening today.

            The nurse came in and balked when she saw Piper, red and puffy faced. She handed her tissue after tissue and said nothing except that the doctor would be in in a few minutes and undress from waist down please.

            Piper’s legs where white and blotched with yellow and rosy spots. She tucked the paper as best she could behind her and waited. The doctor asked her what was wrong; she answered honestly; she didn’t know. The doctor asked her if she could be pregnant; she told the truth. The doctor asked her if she had been smoking; she lied. The doctor was a stout and gregarious woman and talked openly about sex and vaginas and used the phrase “perfectly normal” over and over. But Piper was too far gone to appreciate it, wet faced and mentally choking the puppies on the poster tacked to the ceiling.

            Then something wasn’t perfectly normal. Something was different from the all too familiar routine. The doctor had retreated. They never do that, not without an announcement. (I’m taking my fingers out now…) From behind the tissue paper screen between her knees, Piper heard the doctor at the sink scooping up handfuls of water into her face and then spitting it back out. The nurse, the official tool-passer-offer, had shifty eyes and an open mouth. Splayed, she felt only annoyance at the delay, and because she had set aside her sharpness, she hadn’t realized what just happened.

            Piper was given permission to sit back up, and she did and choked down some more emptiness and readied herself for a cursory conversation, a handout and an insincere farewell. But the doctor returned to the sink, scooped up more water from cuped hands, swished it around in her mouth, and spit it out again.

            Piper crunched her face into a question when the doctor turned.

            The doctor laughed in a short burst. “Well, my tenaculum was hooked on something, and when I pulled it out, I accidentally smacked myself in the face... well, in the mouth. Job hazard.” She laughed again, and left in a hurry.

            When Piper got into the car, she took a moment to sit and gape. Then rested her head back and smiled. She didn’t feel so beaten down anymore, so wounded or damaged: a thrift store item. Her vagina had taken revenge, and deflated the doctor and the day with damp awkwardness. Piper was going to be fine, and the doctor was clearly having a worse day than her. She figured, okay, an undesirable insertion, so be it, but the price is a flying vagina lick. She started her car and began what would be an aggressive drive home.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012


These are the things I saw as I was falling asleep last night:
My gray lit room and one angular light beam, dim, from a crumb sized electronic button. (I'll wait for the battery to die instead of rolling and reaching and and turning the thing off) A cream figure against a darkened receeding room. The orb in the blackened window. I thought it was the moon at first, but it was only your lamp light reflecting, reflecting. He reflecting back to me gray flashing words on a white field, "Gwen is typing..." The quick click and his flattenedface is gone. A sunspot man, a blue aura in dark.

Monday, September 24, 2012


What is it about lying in bed and looking up? Or in the hallway, for that matter, waiting for work to begin. It seems I need to put you in the tumbler, and wear down your edges. Make you shine. But careful not to lie there too long, lest you turn to dust, unrecognizable from the raw thing you began as. It seems I need to put you in a story, just it case this doesn't turn out to be real, and then I'll something to show for it.
I'm not suffocating you anymore, protecting you from my curse. I'm airing you out, because there might be a chance that I'm not damned, even though it terrifies me to say so: temp the Temptress. And whether you turn out to be dust or diamond... it doesn't have anything to do with me.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I can’t think. Being with him was like a puppet show. Our papier-mâché heads bouncing off one another making contusions and craters. The track-lights turned to the bed. Being with you is like water, like honey in a bowl, the light refracting around the waves or the slow moving pours. You’re clouding the walls of my mind with breathy-fog and I can’t see out. I can’t think.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dialogue Exercise (Fiction)

The phone rang in three short tones. She looked away from the computer screen, which had turn into a white aura in her spacey eyes. Laura was paging her. She picked up the receiver.
                “Patricia is on the phone for you.”
                “Oh God. What does she want?” She placed her elbows on the desk and slouched.
                “She wants you.”
                “Tell her I died and it was very sad.”
                “Very funny. You should turn off that space heater. You look awfully pink today. Good luck.” She scooted her rolling chair closer and looked around. It was a slow time of the day. No one was loitering at the front, trying to get reception on their phones. No one needed a key from her or her to un-jam the copy machine. No clumsy and bumpy-head child needed ice. She touched her cheek, and her hand felt cool. Not surprisingly, she was warm.
                She clicked over to line one.
                “Willow Falls Elementary School.”
                “Hi, it’s Patricia” She looked down at her chest. A sprawl of rosy rash.
                “Hi Patricia, what’s going on today?”
                “I just wanted to know if I should bring Sampson in tomorrow. He hasn’t had a fever since this morning, and everything. I thought he was getting the flu cause he was complaining a lot, and I had the flu last week but now he seems to be okay and everything.” She moved to her computer and opened a file on the desktop named Patricia Call Log and began to type: October 4th10:45 am…
                “If he doesn’t run a fever again today or tonight, I would bring him in.”
                “Okay well I was just checking cause I wasn’t sure. So that’s why I called. Did you get my message?”
                “Yes, I did, thank you for calling Sampson in this morning” She was a lousy transcriber. She pinched the phone between her ear and her shoulder, and the words she ticked out were a mess of pushy constants: but bnow he sefms ok andeverthig…
                “I wasn’t sure if I should wait for you to get in or what so I thought I’d just leave a message. Uh if you could make sure Sampson brings his jacket home tomorrow too, I would greatly appreciate that and everything.”
                “Sure thing”
                “Cause it’s fall now and I’m not sure exactly when he’s gonna need that…”
                Laura must have seen she was off the line, and paged her again. Now she was staring at the email she had gotten late last night: I’m sorry, but I can’t stop thinking about you that night, quiet and sure, and your hair falling apart as you moved… She let the phone ring just one more time, then picked it up without looking away from the screen.
                “Did you put that in your log?”
                “I’m a diligent secretary.” She closed the email and looked up at the expectant and guilty looking child approaching, surely for a late pass.
                “What are you going to do with that anyway?”
                “It’s the preface to my suicide note.” She said it just before the boy entered earshot and mouthed I’m late.
                “I’m leaving this world… and everything...?”
                “Exactly,” she smiled sweetly at the thin boy and wrote out the slip. They get enough admonishment from their teachers, and she made it a point to forgive him.
                “Hey, did you ever hear from No Show Joe?” The boy slinked off.
                “What do you think?”
                “You really chased him away.”
                “He deserved it.”
                “Yes, yes he did. Oh, Amy’s here. Bye.” She hung up the receiver and put her face in her hands. Still warm. She picked up her pen and clicked the button in and out on her teeth. She felt his hands on her head, on her arms, and then slammed her own hands down to shake them off. She sighed and sat up straight and returned to her computer, circling the mouse over the litany of duller emails and tried not to compose her response.

Friday, September 14, 2012


My writing teacher keeps reminding me about plot. You can have the most beautiful description of a man, a lake, a moment, a vivid inner dialogue the strikes anyone with a  heart, or a metaphor so lovely that it seems that swimming was only meant and invented to be compared to love, but no one will continue reading if there is no plot. Without conflict we are bored. Sometimes that aligns with real life, and sometimes it does not.

Why read any of this? My musings on postmodernism are intelligible enough, right? No. No, that’s not why. There is conflict here. Will I resolve my inner demons? Will I find love? Revenge on those who have wronged me? I’ve been trammeled, raped (that wasn’t even the worst of it), dismissed, elevated, rewarded, punished, heartbroken again and again. Will I discover happiness without love? Could this be an anti-resolution resolution? Will I discover my self-delusions? Will I find God?  How will I change? What little nuance about life will I uncover that will change the whole game? There is a story here. A good one if it resolves neatly.

Today the wrong one came around, wanted me, then cried over his mistreatment of me. I was just cleaning my floor after I misread an invitation for a party. I was home when I shouldn't have been home when he called and said he was just down the street. "Why did I ever leave this?" he said. He was referring to my ass, admittedly, but you don't sob over someone's ass. How's that for plot? And here is the next turn: I don't care anymore. You have a beard now. That's lovely. I'm worried about your anxiety. But why tell me about your dates? Then take your pants off? Then tell me not to cry? I'm not crying. My body belongs to someone else. I'm inclined to be tender to you, despite how you wrecked me. But nothing here is attached to you anymore. Not the plants that need watering or my body that needs touching. I imagined it so many times. Saying no to you. It is sad saying no to you. But. Go on. Go on and study and work and cavort.  Maybe next time I won't be home.

There is a story here, and I suppose it all depends on how I spin it.

An Open Letter to My Painting Students

Dear Painting Students,

                Today your monochromatic paintings were due. I wanted to make you see value in the absence of color variation. Can you force someone to see value? Something we look about every day, and yet somehow it’s invisible? I explained it to you, but not until I took the brush from your hand and said, “It’s dark here. And here it’s light.”  Then you painted every other apple the same way. During the critique, you said the things that I said to you. I hadn’t realized you were listening. I often felt useless in class as you nodded at me. I saw you tease each other and imitate me. “Slow down! Slow down!” You all could get away with murder with me as your teacher, but you don’t try. Why not?
                And you, sweet thing, couldn’t do what I asked. “Don’t paint with water, paint with paint!” And I walk three steps before you drench your canvas with gray water.  But your painting, with all the drips and broken figures and colors all wrong, yours is my favorite. And I told you so. I don’t think you believe me. I want that damn painting in my house, Batman and all. Everyone else… your paintings look like something I would paint. How did that happen? And just as I look at my own work, I love and hate them all.
                The channels that it came across, I don’t understand. I’m a dirty and wounded girl standing in front of fresh flowers using the word value over and over again. Values I accidently sent into your brain.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Priests and Scientists

Am I a priest or a scientist? A scientist, of course. I can't help it; I was born in the post-modernist age of the 80's.

The strength in the scientist is the ever forward, fluid movement. We want to find out why things work. What's the context? You tell us one thing, but we want to know what motivated you. We feel deceived. We will continue to ask questions, and peel away layers. And if we discover we were wrong, or our theories don't match up to the evidence, okay, we are flexible, and will change the beliefs again. Limitations are our enemy, and everything is God. And sure, everyone was invited but now this party is pure chaos. Our reality is fragile. We are tormented by our understandings constantly morphing and by our mistrust in our own sensory experience. Sometimes it seems there is too much to know, too much complexity, we’ll never get to the bottom of it. At times it seems hopeless.

You – modernists and priests -- search to discover the one reality; you believe in the pure. And when you know that purity, you have faith in it. And through that basic truth, the world makes sense. There is solace in that ultimate knowledge. You have a foundation with which to build on. Your life is more quiet than mine. But what happens when that foundation has a flaw (say for instance some inherent prejudice). What then? You built an entire world on that belief, and now it has to come down.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

When life gets you down, just...

I feel like poking my eyes out with aphorisms. Like life's study flashcards off the interweb. Facebook is clouded with aphorisms, and I'm not fooled by the sarcastic ones either. Scroll down for another one, and another, and another until you realize your beer is gone and you missed your yoga class. You walk away and forget every one. It was bad enough when they were only on magnets and in end-table books. Now just look to an email signature to remember what life's little joys are....

Aphorisms are like puff paint, with equivalent value. These white-fonted-purple-backgrounded one-liners are judging me, and I know you posted that shit as a passive-aggressive dig against your ex to show her how happy you are now. Do you really believe that, or like everything else, are you trying to control people's perceptions of you? I doubt an aphorism ever changed anybody's life (its author was changed by life), and ironically, it's making me depressed.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Planning the next step

The first step was cleaning my house. That was obvious. The dirt and the hairballs and the unfolded laundry reset to the beginning of their cycle. The next step was cleaning myself, which reminded me that the next step was to replace the shower-head.  Then the strategy becomes more complicated. I could do any number of things here. There are stacks of paper to be filed and one hundred and fifty partially read books. Or I could go on the offensive; leave on my bike, drop in on anyone. Planning is not the hardest part, and tomorrow is a landmine. Not giving up is very dull.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


I suspect I’m not alone. Alone in the feeling that my hope is a wretched thing that ruins its object... like a child I can’t control, a beast that sees what I see.  I concede, though, that when I picture a drooling and vicious creature devouring my dreams, most people just say something like, “ I don’t want to jinx it, but…” and then go on to tell you about a job interview.
When I become aware of something I want, my Hope (or shall I say: my pet monster that affects things outside of me?) sees it for the first time too, and begins to stalk it. I must keep it out of my attention, continue to tell my Hope, “Now, I don’t actually want this. I don’t actually believe that I can have this. See, Hope, I didn’t even tell my mother… if I wanted it, I would tell my mother.” All in a lame attempt to trick my Hope, distract him away from taking that which I want away from me.  It never works.
The elaborate metaphor aside, hope is what rescues us from disaster and tragedy. Why live another day after you lost a child if you didn’t hope things would get better? But hope is also the instrument of disappointment and depression. The unfulfilled desire has the power to ruin a life. Buddhism will tell you that wanting is the root of all suffering.  This is nothing new, fine, but I can’t reconcile it. I can’t get it fucking straight in my mind. So I should give up on everything, not desire anything for myself, and only then will I find happiness…? Let it go, Gwen, let it go, let it go, let him go, let it go….. well fuck, that didn’t work. Now what?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A meditation on a memory

(written sometime in July)

I am awake, but quiet. There is a delicious taste in my mouth. I am imagining it still there and my languid thoughts muscle me down. No swimming today but I kick to a cool side of the bed. Your lascivious breath warms and wets my ear, blows into silk and sunless pathways to the southern tip of me. It circles in my belly, and a little lower too.  I am dreamy (always) but, should you call my name twice, summon me back, (Gwen, Gwendolyn) and press me here once, send me away. Farewell pain. But there is nothing for my silly mind to add to this. Embellishments are not for you; your auburn fur adorns your chest perfectly. I am sleepless, but you are not, and I am grateful. I flutter back to the warm side of the bed where you are prostrate and pinked and just a little bit damp. Can I keep you? I fear not. Sweet -bodied air and a switch-backed road, and you will sustain me for just one day. Then I retreat to the space between my ears, the sunless space between my ears, and think nothing of my aches, but of this early morning when I am awake, and your restful mind may think you are somewhere else, but you are with me.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Blue Moon

Last night I was given a gift, at the beginning of the evening, the first of many: A man rode by on his roller blades; he had a white beard and a round belly, and he was swiveling at the hips like a little girl in a new party dress, his hands pointing out at his hips dancing instead of skating.
I spent the walk raspberry tongued and light wrapped in a scarf, finally feeling there was no place to rush off to. I walked like the apish man and loved that I made her laugh. The impression of the bicycle was more difficult, but I tumbled into somersaults until I fell apart. I was happy to make her laugh harder. The the full moon, that fickle bitch, tethered to my brain tricked me into thinking it was morning.
And I know, as sure as I know my own name, that I will know her when she is old, just as I knew her as a child.

And as for him... Not him, the burgeoning scoundrel invested in personal glory and casual sex, but him... the one I asked graciously to please leave my mind but he won't go, he slinked to the corner and let me alone for the evening, and I felt loved.

My dad once told while he sauteed a savory sauce for his pile of meat, "I never met a mushroom I didn't like."