Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Venus, Decorated



Venus, Decorated

            a
Goddess
is ever so slightly
spun away from observers
reclining across a sultry bed
adorned w/ a silky overspread
gingery, upward sweeping strokes
define the curvy contours of her body
bowed out at the hip, in at the stomach
& out again at her soft willowy shoulder
her
body dictates
the gilded frame
the
masterpieces’ limits
commence at her slender foot
& conclude w/ her elegant elbow
            a
Goddess
            decorated
            for your pleasure

***

This little writing exercise from my bud was to create a work of art with words. Couldn't have come at a better time.

Did I succeed?

In propinquity,
Nic


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

I Still Hear Your Voice



I Still Hear Your Voice

            I still hear it
your voice in the halls
vibrating up through the
floorboards
            calling my name
singing ‘High Flying Bird
shooing the cat away from
your desk lamp or while you
sewed well-traveled patches
on your quilt
            I still hear it
your voice
your voluminous laughter
echoing in the rooms you’ve
left empty
living-rooms, dining-rooms
dance halls
            and I still hear it
the buzz
of machines in time
with your lungsful
drawing oxygen deep
exhaling in emergency
            it’s always there
the slow outbreath of your last
moment
            an Angel’s soft sigh
you bloomed in freedom
I wither in grief
I still hear it
the sounds of you
                                    especially
when I feel stranded in my joys
            and when I hear it
I look for the rendering
of your
human guise
for a soliloquy
any kind of refrain
I still hear it
            and it kills me

***

Another poem for my dearly departed sister. When I feel the hurt settle in, the reality, the only way I know how organize it is on the page.

I miss you, Big Sister.

In propinquity,
Nic


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Imagine a Poem



Imagine a Poem

            imagine a poem
that begins w/ assurance
w/ an openhearted curiosity
for the unsuspected gifts on
the other side of surrender
            imagine a poem
that begins louder than the
opening notes of Beethoven’s
Fifth Symphony & lasts as
long as a trove of old letters
written from past wars
            imagine a poem
that reveals the plight of an
artist in Paris committing
bold feverish brushstrokes
to unadorned canvas to craft
windswept wheat fields &
lush orchard scenes
            imagine a poem
that ends w/ the image of a
red-haired woman walking
through a park in the fall
the breeze blowing red &
yellow & orange leaves all
around her
            imagine a poem
that instills the kind of calm
of a simple window through
which to enjoy the vivid skies
of the day’s end

***

I can tell you with great certainty that writing this poem instilled the very same kind of calm to my often anxious bones and muscles and fibers.

Written for nothing other than the beauty of it.

In propinquity,
Nic


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Beautiful Minefields



Beautiful Minefields

“In another life, I would come back as a blond soprano who could sing high, clear notes without fear.”
~ Georgia O’Keeffe
            dear Joni
I am only a featherhead
for as long as your art requires
& what traps await in the time
it takes know exactly when
calculations fail while you are
so busy being free – the one
they say sings first in a patter
to a rue & all the way to rhapsody
in one fell swoop
            all those tinges of sadness
protests, rounds & felicities
surrendered on thin paper
every carefully chosen word act as
slight shunts into oblivion
            I am thinking of you today
from my hotel room trying to turn
a dirge into a love song to meet the
sharp expectations of your dignity
            o’ Joni
I confess
I do lean a little too heavily on your
good graces to emulate your clout
& w/ evident joy of course
in the hopes that one day soon we
might have a chance
conversation that flowers into a song
one that ambles & veers the depths of
my heart & your pockets full of sand
it would be a slow reveal
all those years of bottled
up melancholy
the wash transcendent & bracing for
restoration
restitution
dear Joni
            it still doesn’t rain in California
& yet the hydrangeas bloom brightest
along the sharp chances of the Canyon
while you sit vigil in British Columbia
            & I am desperate to be forgiven
for trying to steal all the light you have
                                                gathered
for thinking I could pass off the extra
syllables of your openhearted heroics
            as my own
If I know you, Joni
you’d send me back to the garden
through beautiful minefields just to
endure basic human longings 
                        just as you did for all
these seventy-five fitful years

***

Happy 75th birthday, Joni Mitchell. Thank you for the music, the poetry, the passion, the power, the art – all while defending and maintaining a true sense of self. Fucking admirable. Thank you for paving the way.

In propinquity,
Nic

Monday, November 5, 2018

Hot Dog with Mustard



Hot Dog with Mustard

Tara Maple has just come back from the Trash Pile Street Poetry Festival in the next town over and is craving something to eat to clear her palette of the lavish foods prepared by the loveliest lesbian chefs, all diehard Joni Mitchell fans. She could really grow accustom to mornings spooning passion fruit, mid-days choking artichoke hearts, and evenings sucking cold, plum, raw oysters from the half-shell. In some ways, Tara thought, the culinary delights were more poetic than the actual poetics being presented. One of the charming chefs said that if she had to pair Tara’s latest collection of poems with a food it’d be with her preferred and decadent appetizer: warm deviled eggs flavoured with Provolone cheese, brackish bacon, fresh herbs, and paprika, “Unimaginably luxurious and the very opposite of church picnic homey.”
            Her new book simply titled ‘Artful’ receives a standing ovation after her reading its signature poem, ‘God-Given Madness’. She stood before a horn-rimmed, like-minded audience at the microphone and recites from memory:
I cannot tell which is the most tragic
example of inventive intelligence
Vincent Van Goh hacking off his own ear
Sylvia Plath’s death by confection oven or
standing here before you with my own pre-
curated input bucketing out of my dazed mouth
hoping the high price will set a good precedent
for what will soon be known as gradient descent
Tara Maple almost ceases writing poetry after a recent personal tragedy and after such a warm reception she is grateful she keeps pen to paper. She said as much before exiting the stage and the same charming chef tapped her on the shoulder and reiterates, “You must always write, Tara Maple, we need your words.” And, that’s when Tara’s heart rose up into her throat and it has been there ever since or maybe it’s just her hankering for a little bite of something not gourmet. They call for her to knock out one last quick refrain, one more verse for the road; she is the last poet to perform but no one is ready to go home. Instead of reciting something of her own, she straps on an acoustic guitar and regales them with a nippy Bob Dylan cover. Tara Maple, darling poet, most notable for saying provocative but inaccurate things in her work, croons her best ‘Idiot Wind’ while wearing a t-shirt with ‘never trust a rich hippie’ emblazoned on its front.
            Tara Maple has just arrived home both elated and extinguished. She is not as obscure as they believe her to be. Others, based on how they behave in her presence, consider her to be a mysteriously tough nut to crack but she is not. Her dish towels are miss-matched and hang uneven on her oven door, she enjoys hanging her laundry out to dry, and she enjoys bird-watching and rock shows and reality television, some of it at least. But, because she once at a prestigious literary lunch arrived tiddly and quoted Auden amiably, she has been deemed a loose cannon but with dazzling observance, “She’s gutsy, not to be denied. She looks skeptical through her smile but she is most certainly something of an original. You just never know what she’s going to do or say!” This, a direct newspaper quote from a prissy Shakespeare groupie who happens to host the luncheon every year. Incidentally, Tara Maple was never invited back despite a Giller nod. And what did she really say that was so avant-garde anyhow? One of the laced collars clutching her new Victorian romance to her generous bosom addressed Tara Maple in front of everyone in attendance, “Frankly, I don’t understand a thing you’ve ever written.” And that is when she dispensed the Auden quip, “Real poetry originates in the guts and only flowers in the head. I’m trying to reverse the process.” Lace Collar’s face froze in a vacant stare, “I beg your pardon?” Tara Maple threw her head back in jest and laughed, “My work here is done.” It should also be noted that she wore a Pearl Jam t-shirt under a fancy blazer to the event and stuck out like a sore thumb amid the twill and tweed. Come as you are, the invitation said, so she did.
            Tara Maple has just returned home to her humble abode from a glorious weekend away. Drunk on kinship, wordplay, and accolades, she’s hungry. It is her ritual to unpack her overnight bag, start laundry, run the vacuum over her big living-room area rug, change into something clean and head out for a brisk walk and a nibble. She crosses the road to take the scenic route to the town square, left on Jaden Street and a sharp right onto Wentworth and then straight.
            Tara Maple loves coming back. She loves making this walk. The town square, surrounded by a shimming blue ocean where the sunlight dances its diamonds clean, the local shops and grocers laid out like fluorescent dominos, the plush playground where neighboring children frolic and giggle, and then there’s Stanley’s.  She approaches the food cart with its bright red and white umbrella inhaling the familiar aroma. Old Man Cartwright is leaning heavy on his whittled cane giving Stanley a hard time, “I’m telling you this right now Stan, if brains was gasoline you wouldn’t have yourself enough to run a mosquito’s motorcycle half way ‘round that there dime!” Stanley is a gentleman; he puts Old Man Cartwright’s food in his hand, nods and forgoes payment. As per usual, Old Man Cartwright gives a growl of a thank you and carries on with his head down. Stanley greets his next customer with a beaming teeth smile, “Tara Maple Tree, what can I get for you, a hot dog with mustard?” Tara Maple smirks and motions toward the simmering meat in the briny water, “Yes please, Pops.” Stanley blows is daughter a kiss, “Poem for a frank?” Tara Maple nods and breaks into verse. A crowd collects. Tara Maples is happy. Tara Maple is home. Understood.

***
Writing just to write, that’s all this is, really, writing just to write. Nothing more, nothing less.

In propinquity,
Nic
           



Friday, November 2, 2018

Summer Vacation, 1985



Summer Vacation, 1985

Remember that summer vacation
we took with Dad to Oak Island Inn?
It was summer, 1985. We giddily packed
our bags with or Duran Duran tees, shorts,
pajamas, pink toothbrushes and waited
anxiously for the car to roll up and wind
down the South Shore. Remember we
stopped at Lawtons on the way to check
and see if there were any new magazines
out and we hit the mother-load? A new
Star Hits and 16 Magazine full of centerfolds
and glimpses of Simon LeBon and John Taylor,
our favorite guys. Oh, and Michael Hutchinson.
We couldn’t wait to arrive at our destination
to pour over every detail and then all over again.
Remember the weather was hot and sunny? We
checked into our room that was next door to
Dad’s, our patios connected with a dull view
of the resort’s dining-room. Remember we
unpacked our treasures, plugged in our silver
ghetto blaster, popped in our new Kool and the
Gang cassette and dismantled our magazines
to decorate the desk with their glossy pages?
Remember we went swimming and exploring?
We met that creepy guy on the boardwalk. We
were positive he had a hook for a hand. When
he dared share his Oak Island theory he kept
the hand in question tucked up deep inside his
heavy sleeve. Remember we were sweating
in the summer heat and thought it strange he
was wearing a sweater? I’ll never forget the
sinister gleam in his eye each time he swept
his greasy bang away from his brow. I can’t
remember exactly what story he told to us.
Whatever it was had us running clean for the
hills and caused you to have daunting dreams
about floating heads and other body parts.
Remember the next day after hours of more
swimming and malingering Dad called you from
his patio? He was sitting in the sun reading
the newspaper. You went toward his voice
to ask what he wanted and remember you
thought the screen was open but it wasn’t
and your head bounced hard into the net and
knocked the whole panel clean from its tracks
and it toppled over the side of the balcony?
Remember how hard we laughed? Remember
how red in the face Dad was when he realized
everyone enjoying lunch in the dining-room
witnessed your clumsy gaffe? He was a little
beside himself enough to let us go to dinner
alone and order whatever we wanted. “Just
charge it to your room, have whatever you want,”
he said. And boy did we. Remember we ordered
strip loin steaks with baked potatoes, mushrooms,
and garlic bread? It was perfect meal for us two.
I felt so grown up dining alone without Dad nearby.
It felt exciting, extraordinary. I was a happy kid,
proud to sit so fancily with a crisp cloth napkin in
my plump lap across from you, my Big Sister.
Remember when we checked out and Dad saw
our dinner tab? He cursed under his breath at
the front desk but paid the kind folk without
complaint. Remember we bought captain hats
and posed for pictures together? Remember
when we got back to Halifax? Dad took us for
a walk along the waterfront. I bopped along side
you both in my humble attire without a care in the
world because I felt like the luckiest girl on the
planet. And, remember for years later we’d look
at ourselves in those pictures and reminisce? How
we’d laugh at the way Dad near dropped his paper
when you busted through the patio door and how
the only reason we even bothered to buy a
captain’s hat at all is because Simon LeBon owned  
a boat called ‘Drum’ to sail in the Whitbread race
and they capsized. Remember how scary those
news headlines were? We were so worried for him.
I remember it was one of the best summer vacation
trips I ever had. One for this history books for sure.
Remember all those Sunday dinner’s at Dad’s in
Portland Estates when we’d recall that time away
together while Dad dished up shrimp in garlic
butter just for he and I because you hated seafood?
Remember? I remember everything as if it happened
yesterday. Memory, it becomes a vivid thing when
it is all you have left.

***

One of my favorite summer memories in poem form. Keeping them all alive, forever and ever by remembering.

In propinquity,
Nic

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Nightshift



Nightshift

            Everyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that I’m basically afraid of my own shadow so imagine the shock and awe inspired when I announced to my small circle of friends and family that I took on a seasonal gig as a ‘haunted house actor’.  Mother said: “Now Nomi Rickles, why would you go and do something so foolish? Silly girl. I know you’re saving for a camera but this job is not a good fit for you, darling.” Best friend #1 said: “Are you fucking kidding me?! You’ll have nightmares for LIFE!” Best friend #2 said: “Ten bucks says you won’t last day. You’ll be a haunted house drop-out.” Best friend #3 said: “No way! That’s SO cool. Can you get us free tickets!?” I expected my mother to be aghast; I was frightful out of the womb. As for my friends, obviously I got them tickets and they had a spooktacular tour through ‘Murder Hall’.
            My first night on the job some poor schmuck wearing a bloody pig mask in the kitchen scene got kicked in the balls repeatedly by a soccer Mom he scared the bejesus out of. He popped up in front of her and let out an earsplitting high-pitched squeal and her knee mashed his junk black and blue. The whole premise of these haunted house things is prey on people’s worst fears and phobias, soccer Mom had a severe aversion to swine I guess. Needless to say that guy never did come back to work.  They did warn me that their employees often bore the physical brunt of the resulting terrors, an occupational hazard, “We’ve seen some of the toughest looking guys shrink into weeping children when confronted by their worst fears. Some of them even shit their pants.” My only hope was someone didn’t have a heart attack in front of me. So far, no one has. Well, almost.
            I was the last one hired so I got to go through the house to experience it for myself before suiting up. I wandered through behind a gaggle of cheerleader types which was a mistake because they screamed just for the sake of it at least until we reached the dining room. One of my soon-to-be co-workers acted as a severed head, a mangled center piece for a ghastly last supper in the middle of a long planked dining table. One of the cheerers, giggling, sidled up to the table and leaned close to the plated face, “She like looks sooo freakin’ real, like oh my God.” The other girls closed in around her shoulder at the table’s edge and foolishly marveled. My soon-to-be co-worker, who looked very much like a twice possessed Linda Blair in ‘The Exorcist’ snapped open her eyes at the same time psychotic strobe lights started flashing and a loud split second blast of death metal sounded. Her eyes were wide and crazed, teeth gory and snapping ravenously, tongue flapping like a demented demon. It petrified the first girl so bad that she toppled the others like dominos. One of them left crying with a sprained pinky finger.
            A few weeks into it the front of house supervisor asked if I’d go survey the line for the tough guys to toy with a little more and those already super terrified so we didn’t mess with them as much. I was disguised in a black reaper cloak mostly to hide my facial characteristics I wear inside. While perusing those queued in line, I felt my heart skip a dangerous beat and the long scar on my back blister at the sight of my childhood nemesis. Brandy Vance once lived three doors down from me in junior high school and was a year older. She tortured the living hell out of me every chance she could and then maimed me. If it hadn’t been for her father coming home early from work with a migraine no one would have witnessed me barricaded in her backyard while she slashed me across the back with a length of barbed wire. Her poor fragile father, beyond horrified at the act, asked her why she would ever do something like that to me. While knelt on the grass sobbing and holding my bleeding flesh, she leered down at me and then over to him, shrugged her shoulders casually and said, “Aw you know Daddy, for shits and giggles.” Fucking bully. They shipped her off to God knows where but I didn’t care because she was gone. I’d hoped forever. I’m pretty sure her parents split up after that and her father had a nervous breakdown. Her witch of a mother still lives three doors down but she keeps to herself. Brandy must be visiting. There she was, in line for ‘Murder Hall’ cozied up to some beefy troglodyte in a too small varsity style jacket. I snuck back into the employee only area with one thing on my mind, revenge.
            I admit that because knowing Brandy Vance was coming through I didn’t elicit the number of bone chilling frights I’d been getting in the days previous. One guy jumped back so hard he dented one of the makeshift walls. I got a bonus for that in the form of a gift card. It’s the only kind of job where you are rewarded for damages incurred. If I’m being honest, ‘Murder Hall’ is just as daunting in broad daylight as it is in the pitch dark. It’s fashioned after a 19th century decaying mansion that feels more like an creeped out asylum and home of the best startle scares, my room has a two tier terror. The room I work out of is an upstairs bedroom. There’s a fog machine, a cracked mirror and it looks as though the paint is peeling from the walls. Across from an old brass bed with browning linens is a dilapidated bassinette, sort of in the middle of the floor, the focal point in the room. Inside of course is an animatronic demon babe that springs up when someone nears it or attempts to look inside. That’s the first tier. Once the morbid nursling sinks back down into its bed, I step out from the shadows in whatever disguise I choose that day. People think the scare is over and then I emerge from the shadows for tier two. I’m fairly tall and big-boned so my presence tends to loom large in the foggy haze of the darkness and depending on my mood sometimes I’ll drag myself across the floor to grab people’s feet and legs. I am so surprised I haven’t been kicked in the face yet. Because I was out monitoring the line-up awhile I had to rush to get ready and couldn’t find my usual garb which looks a lot like the girl from ‘The Ring’, a pink dress with a long black wig draped over my dead looking make-up’d face. I’m tall and big-boned but flexible so I can contort. It’s how I landed the job in the first place, that and my theatre background. I’m proficient in voices. Instead, I stole an ugly pair of mechanic’s overalls and stuffed a cushion in the chest area to make myself look ominously large, threw on a pair of heavy work boots sitting by the sofa, covered my head in an old gas mask, wound my way to my usual room, and waited. It seemed like a shame I had to cover up a particularly excellent make-up job but in the end, it was more than worth it.
            Throngs of thrill seekers entered my room and the more they poured in the faster my heart pounded. One unfortunate soul landed hard on the floor crying in the fetal position just from the baby. I didn’t have the heart to surface from the shadows and make it worse. I have no balls to mash but there was no way I was getting a beat down before I avenged my own oppressor.
            Brandy Vance and Meat Head entered the room alone, the first after a long lull in traffic. They slopped into the room, giddy and crass, striding over the gaps in the creaking floorboards, the scritch of tree branches scraping at the windows sounded behind long dusty ripped drapes. The sound of her pitchy voice made my mouth go dry and sour. It made me wish I was stationed in the hall closet so I could have pushed her down the old warped staircase and watch her tumble until she was twisted like a pretzel at the bottom. Violet daydream aside, I went into terror mode when Meat Head loomed over the baby. I triggered its rise and he let out a blood curdling scream, “That fucking baby just scratched me!” My favorite parts of the baby’s anatomy are the razor sharp teeth and matching fingernails but they are mere rubber and in no way harmful should a paying customer come in contact with them. Brandy Vance rolled her eyes at her companion, “Yeah, I’m sure. It’s a fucking rubber doll, nitwit.” She reached in and pinched the doll’s hand unaffected. He shook his head, “If you’re going to keep being a bitch like that, I’m out.” Brandy Vance cocked her hip and sucked her teeth in contempt, “There’s the door, asshole.” Meat Head followed her lead and stormed out muttering expletives under his gruff beer addled breath. Somehow the stars aligned. Meat Head abandoned her in my room and the traffic lull persisted. We were alone. I surveyed her from my dark corner while she poked around unfazed. She looked slight and I felt potent. I never thought I’d ever have the upper hand with Brandy Vance but there we were, her prowling around like she’s above it all and me dressed as an unhinged serial killer with a shiny butcher knife prop in my hand.
            Meat Head was long gone and there was no time to waste. Brandy Vance pulled at the tattered curtains and twirled herself around. I stepped antagonistically out of the shadow a mere step behind her. She smelled like stale cigarette smoke and perfume. I inhaled inside of the gas mask and it hissed just at her earlobe. She froze. “Babe, is that you? Babe?” Without thinking, I wrapped my cold gloved hand around the back of her neck and squeezed tight bending her neck leftward. Her body tensed. I teased her jugular with the fake blade of the knife and I growled at her ear, “Tell me why I shouldn’t slit your throat ear to ear … Brandy?” The sound of her name raging out of the mask jolted her. She tried to free herself from my stranglehold but the more she tried the tighter I squeezed. I couldn’t help myself. I felt the slash of the barbed wire flailing against my skin all over again and the urge to snap her like a twig grew stronger, “How do you know my name!? Let me go!” She urged me to set her free, her voice cracking, my heart raced so fast I thought it might lurch out of my chest and punch straight through her back. “See you in Hell, bitch …” The blade grazed her neck. Brandy shrieked so loud her voice gave out. I heard others coming for the door. I shoved her forward by the scruff of the neck. I heard her bare knees crack against the floor. She whimpered and rubbed the back of her neck, “You psychopath! You’re not allowed to touch me! You’re getting fucking fired, asshole!” I was overcome with a conflicting permutation of wrath and euphoria. Rage for her cross my path again and conjuring up the abuse I endured and elation because while I only intended to frighten her when she was in my grasp the desire to really hurt her intensified, payback for the scars she left on me mentally and physically. Before she could get up off the floor, I bound across the room and blew through a large crowd of teenage boys with my knife held high and menacing. I scared them shitless. As powerful as the sensation was, I wasn’t a bully, I wasn’t Brandy Vance. But, it terrified me at how tempting it was to cause harm.
            I rushed to the dressing room area and disrobed in the middle of the shift. I put everything back where I found it and sat in my plain clothes trying to catch my breath, the make-up on my face smudged, my hair matted. The site manager ran in and asked me where Devon was, eyeing his work boots and overalls in plain sight, “I don’t know. I haven’t seen him all night. Everything okay?” He threw up his hands exasperated, “No everything is not okay. I’ve got a customer out here claiming he practically strangled her. His ass is grass.”
            Sorry Devon.

***
I started writing this little exercise one evening sitting at Kelly’s bedside. I intended a little something chilling to post for Halloween but I couldn’t get back to it. It’s still needs some work but the draft is here one day shy of one of my favorite holidays.

I didn’t do a thing for Halloween except write this story. I was too sick with a cold yesterday to pass out candy. Zoe did it for me. Bless her heart. Maybe next year Erica and I will dress up and have some fun.

Hope you had fun reading this little tale. I got the idea on my way to work one morning passing by the haunted house thingie at Alderney Landing. This little story evolved in my head and I started pecking at it in bits and pieces. This, aside from a proper edit, is the result, blogged for your review.

In propinquity,
Nic