Thursday, March 29, 2012

Flash XI—In Memorium

Because there's nothing I could write that comes close to this:

What Kind of Times Are These

By Adrienne Rich

There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.

Thank you, Ms. Rich.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Flash X—Fairy Tale

Julia Roberts is playing the Wicked Stepmother. So is Charlize Theron. There are two prime time TV shows "inspired" by fairy tales—a wellspring, it seems, of great ideas for entertainment.

I get it. I was, as a child, an enormous believer in fairy tales. There was no doubt in my mind that I would bravely overcome obstacles, there would be a Prince Charming arriving once I'd emerged (triumphant!) from the dark wood, and I would live happily ever after in a well-staffed castle.

One out of three ain't bad (thank you, every day, Neil). Here's what I still can't figure out, however: why was I so certain about those obstacles, that dark wood? I devoted hours to inventing spectacularly grim scenarios in which I matched wits with trolls and wicked witches and wizards who looked nothing like Harry Potter. Prince Charming was able to take care of himself, apparently; I never got much beyond the idea that he would show and be...charming. The castle? I never got inside the front door. "Happily ever after" was such a given the idea that it wouldn't happen was unimaginable.

Was it a response to the way things were when I was a child—when, in my world, women had their adventures (such as they were) before marriage? Of course it was. There was more to it than that, certainly—there were a few Big Bad Wolves in that world of mine—but I'll save that for another post (or a book).

Monday, March 26, 2012

Flash Fiction IX—Mug Shot

She is smiling for the camera. A reflex? A habit born of countless imploring commands? You could think she’s been caught by surprise as she steps into the kitchen during a party or as she turns at just the right moment so we can see the joy of company, the wake of a good laugh making her eyes dance, the anticipation of more fun to follow.

Perhaps it is a relief, this tapering in her life. Look at his picture and it is easy to imagine his hard edges; what must it be like to navigate those every day?

Still, she is smiling for the camera. There is no fear in her eyes and no shame and you can’t help but think she looks like someone you would probably like to have coffee with.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Flash Fiction VIII—Anonymous Donor

They bring you into a windowless room for this. You sit at a table with the surgeon you've never met, the social worker who was waiting for you in the ER, some other doctor. You're waiting to hear how long it's going to take for her to recover from this because that's the best thing you can imagine. You fold your hands, feel the smooth cool table begin to slick with your sweat as you begin to understand what they are asking of you.

Your own heart shatters yet keeps on beating.

This is when you understand the lack of windows: no prying eyes, but also no world beyond this room, no way to place this moment in any kind of natural context. The social worker sits beside you and you realize you should have known when she touched the back of your chair—she was measuring the distance.

After you say this you will never be able to speak again. What more will there be to say?

The paperwork is stunning. The other doctor is the lawyer, of course; he flips pages, points to tagged signature lines. The surgeon is a fidgeter; her chair arcs as she waits for the last crossed “t,” dotted “i,” and she does not watch.

When you are done, the social worker asks if you want the hospital chaplain.