Sunday, June 11, 2006

Internalational Dictionary of Neologisms

A delightful blog: Spooks by Me by K. Lorraine Graham

My Crush on Daniel Ortega, short story

A week later.

In this room, where love was spilled on the oldest bed, there is a draft. I begin the song again, the song about the eye, and I smoke and drink coffee. I am crouching, and I am waiting, because the dream of the clarinet tells me to begin again.

February 20

Daniel Ortega dances the mayfly with women on the campaign trail. He rides in on horseback, Godivas in tow. The week of the election, I do my taxes in North America. I remind myself that he is married, but it doesn’t stop me from thinking about him. I blot from my mind the deaths he has ordered. His soldiers are rowdy and young, eager to kill for an ideal.

Violetta Chamorro travels again and again to Washington. She limps in on crutches. She is here for the better medical care and to take our money. There is a dim recollection that she is a martyr. Somoza killed her husband while we were on Somoza’s side. The sides change. Her children, her son and daughter, put out the Sandinista newspaper.

March 27

Politics kills romance.

I tear apart the sheets you wrinkled, sleeping with my friend, and I wonder if I can learn to be louder while making love, as loud as you were while I stood on the other side of the wall, in the kitchen, feeding the cats. You’re not legally married, and neither am I, as we keep telling each other.

My friend says that you and I are like hands, back to back. She matches you in loudness, and she can forget me and your wives, as she rolls with you in my husband’s bed. She says that places mean nothing to her. That it’s crucial for self-preservation.

April 3

My taxes are still not done. The documents I need are filed in a box in the closet. I’ve paid them thousands of dollars, and they want more. I open and close the closet door, and the documents snap at the hem of my robe.

My throat is sore, but I won’t quit. When I get the prescription, I’ll take two and go out. It’s raining. I dance along the street with my headphones on and keep my eye peeled for Daniel Ortega.

I am never alone. The music runs the cord to my ear. The cats sleep at my head. The men call and call. They stay in orbit. I am protected only by gravity, and I am not a planet. I slip. I let them nearer, by turns. I veer toward one then another.

Her letter arrives, printed. She speaks simply, as if I were a child. There are things she won’t be telling me. I read quickly for a reference to her betrayal. She writes out of concern for me and out of curiosity. Our week together was refreshing, she says, but not relaxing. We talked so much. We lost the toothpaste. Our visitors were all poor. Maybe one of them took it.

The toothpaste didn’t turn up, I tell her. I am seeing the new man, but I don’t know what his fate will be. Sorry to hear her new one is trouble. It’s worth it only at certain moments, and then what choice do we have? The house is full: three of a kind and two of another.

Finish it, she says. Put it behind you and walk on. Put them all behind you and continue on alone, without these crutches.

March 24

My friend had a dream that she was away when the fire started, and that I was stuck in the upper floors of the building. She waited helplessly on the street for my rescue. They put me in the hospital for smoke inhalation, and three days later, I was shot at in the same building. She stood on the street below waiting for them to carry me down. Again? she said. Again? And she thought that what had happened was her fault.

April 3

The most reliable suitors are the traitors, the ones who come first in their own minds.

The phone rings, but it’s not the right caller. I pick among relative evils. One I want is bad for me; one I love is married. There is a hope with the new man that I’ll wait for him to catch on to me. I’ll take off my clothes in protest of this taxation and get on his back, side-saddle.

March 29

In the dream about the married man, I read his poem. I had let myself into his office and ransacked his papers, looking for an indication. Ours was not a one-night stand because his brow was wrinkled, sadness there like a mark. We read the book about Anna and Levin without being Anna or Levin.

He says that I should be on my guard, that my trouble will be that I arouse strong emotions. In the dream, he climaxed while I read the right side of the poem, the column about Anna. I stopped reading when he came and thought: We missed each other.

April 3

I do not fool myself by thinking death will not come. I plan for it. I kill time until it arrives. Sal says that when he gets sick, he lies in bed, thinking uncharacteristically of death, wanting sympathy. I tell him, not in answer: Death is my constant companion.

When Tom Petty counts squarely, he says foe. One, two, three, foe.

When I come to you, there are two yous, a you and a you. With one of you, I spill my
guts. With the other, I stroke your brow. You all have a dog bite above your left eyebrow. Gay men used to wear earrings in their left ears. Now everyone wears earrings in both ears.

Time advances. One space between words, two between sentences. When I’m not working, I rehearse the language of newspapers: teez, pica, reefer, jump, hed, sig.
. . .
On Ash Wednesday we brought the Lebanese man to what I tell myself is a "crackhouse," but really it is just someone's house. The Lebanese man's mother is from the Dominican Republic, no matter what your understanding was. You said she was from Honduras, but those are the fire victims. His father was the ambassador from Beirut to Santo Domingo. He grew up in Spain. After midnight, he told us about the Jesuit priesthood. He said that until he had been with a woman, he had not known God. He said, pounding his abdomen: Until man knows woman, he cannot know himself.

The man whose house it was had asked for my phone number at a poetry reading. I had known him in the past as a cook at Muther’s Kitchun. I had had the impression that he had taken a turn toward stupidity, that he had used up too much acid. He was against tobacco. He let the whole-wheat carob brownies burn in the oven, as the men lit up the ladle with the gray, thickening cocaine. He told me to go outside if I needed to smoke cigarettes.

Jennifer Casolo is caught with weapons in her yard. She went to Central America as a missionary and came back as a chief.

CAST (in order of appearance):


I (me, my)
Violetta Chamorro
Her daughter
My friend
Your wives
Anna Karenina
The Lebanese man’s Dominican mother
Jennifer Casolo
The woman who dumped the man with the long hair
The new man’s old love
Jean Rhys


Daniel Ortega
His soldiers
Violetta Chamorro’s husband
Her son
My husband
The new man
My friend’s new man
The married man
Tom Petty
Gay men
The Lebanese man
His father
The man whose house it was
My old boyfriend
The man with the long hair
Frankie, the mafia son
The Assemblyman
The news anchor
The Texan in the Dewar’s profile



April 4

The new man spends 19 hours in my bed then leaves to buy pot. He wants to come back afterward, but I tell him I have things to do. I remind him that my old boyfriend is coming to town. He says he’ll call at eleven. At eleven I’m eating old macaroni, hoping he’ll call, planning to ask him over and to kick him out early, but I don’t get the chance. He doesn’t call.

I put on the headphones. By sheer telepathy, I am not able to make the man with the long hair call, but I think of him.

March 28

The new man spends 15 hours in my bed. At 5 o’clock, I drive him to work, and on the way, the man with the long hair passes us and waves. He has on dark glasses, and wisps of hair escape his ponytail. I drive erratically and let the new man out. In my rearview mirror, I see Frankie, the mafia son. This town is too small. I don’t want to live here anymore. I go straight home, with a firm plan to straighten the upholstery.

I realize that the man with the long hair will follow me, but I don’t know why he would decide to since we were going in opposite directions. I tell myself to go inside and brush my teeth, when he pulls up behind me in his father’s car. I recognize the New York Assemblyman plates.

He meets me in the middle of the street and kisses me. He takes my hand and points me toward the pizza shop at the corner, but we never get there. He walks, and I float beside him. He wants to know how my infatuation is coming: Am I over him yet? No, I tell him, it’s still with me. I like to be near him to intensify my suffering. He asks me who the man in the car was, and I ask him if he wants coffee. By then he has walked and I have floated down the street and through the park. He pauses to wave at the news anchor in the intersection. I wave, too, not realizing that I only know the news anchor from TV.

We go inside to two cups of coffee on the table. There are no other traces of the new man. I wonder if the man with the long hair knows that we just got up, but he isn’t talking. He’s sitting on the couch, waiting for his coffee, reading my journal. He injures my peace, but we flipped for it. I listen from the kitchen to his silent reading and wait for him to ask again if all my sentences are short. He doesn’t ask. He says he likes it but doesn’t get it.

He tells me about running into the woman who dumped him and that she is cold toward him now. He asks how would I feel if he were cold toward me. I tell him he is cold, though he tries not to seem so. He asks if I’m involved with the new man, and I say, no.

April 4

The new man’s old love is in the past. He says her name, and her name means love. I tell him there are things to look forward to, but I’m no more certain than he is. I think ahead to Texas. I think of meeting the Texan in the Dewar’s profile. That wouldn’t be love, but it could be fun. Perhaps fun is just around the corner.

My husband calls while the new man is fucking me. I’m on the bottom and yelling, "I don’t want to hear it." The answering machine is blaring, and I’m plugging my ears. My husband says our name for each other over and over, in a slow decrescendo.

April 5

The new man falls off his horse doing a trick for me. I show no mercy. I leave him in the mud, caked with tears. I want him supple, and he wants merely to be soft. No amount of mercy will change that.

During our druid times, my friend says: There are no other lovers.

April 6

My husband reads Jean Rhys to me over the phone at four in the morning, and I can’t remember why I left him. Neither of you rides a horse. Anna Karenina crumbled in the stands when Vronsky fell off his horse.

(First written in 1990; published in Washington Review in 1998.)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Ad- (L.) and -ad (Gr.)

A search of my weblog for "ad" produced the following list:



had had




Brad Pitt
Darth Vader

Kitchen Set

I was very young, about three. Grandma helped me on this occasion -- it was Christmas Eve at Uncle Sheldon and Aunt Pat's. Sheldon was Grandma's brother, so, technically they were our great aunt and uncle. Sheldon was in TV. Later, as I pictured it, he was the Walter Cronkite of Denver. He reminded one of Walter Cronkite or Robert MacNeil. He was that style journalist: sincere. For Christmas they gave me a child's size kitchen set, replete with stove, refrigerator, and sink. When it was unveiled, I took one look at it and puked on their living room carpet. Then I burst into uncontrollable sobbing because they believed I did not like the kitchen set -- I could not catch my breath -- and Grandma, who understood that I liked the kitchen set so much that I puked, translated for me. Eventually, I stopped crying at our little misunderstanding. Then I settled into enjoying a really great Christmas. My parents and brother and their kids were there, too.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Oh, baby!

Subj:Re: hippy Date: 6/9/06 7:19:40 AM Central Daylight

In a message dated 6/8/06 12:54:37 PM Central Daylight Time, rainermaria@.NET writes:> I shaved my head four years ago and played with my resume. Blatant > lies. They didn't help. But I really looked like a total putz with no > hair. As for The Fugs....>

I clippered my hair to an eighth of an inch five years ago -- in 2001 before 9/11 -- to see what the small of my head looked like. Men had suddenly insisted on having a baby with me, men I had not met until then or drunk men I had long known. I had not been hankering for a baby. One of the drunk men, a dear friend, hunk, as he updated me, now living the existence of a poet, called from San Francisco to say he would take the plane to Minneapolis, do it, then leave me to raise the baby. He was driving taxi, something his ex-wife, another of my friends, had not agreed to in him. Another drunk one, a novelist calling from Missouri said he wanted to spread his superior genes (with their single flaw or two) to as many states as he could carry them. He assumed my mother would pay for everything. "Everything" means private schools. She hadn't needed to pay for private schools for me, so now I'm really unemployed. He was working. Then a wealthy drunk poet in New York called in for quintuplet boys to go with his three boys already. "Girls then," I said. "No," he said.

Perhaps if I had suddenly mated, just then, as a fuzzy-headed woman with a man with a shaved head, everything would have turned out okay. I had been very attracted to bald men -- even been engaged to one for two years -- but he and I didn't have a baby. He had a baby with a woman he had met once at a music festival. The baby was then adopted by rich, white people, a fact that caused me to grow highly suspicious of the economics of having babies, something I had not been in the past.

It was a Jamaican man, a steel drum player, Jah-B, as it turned out, who got it started with me, when he approached me at a bar, where I had stopped in for exactly one drink (what I could afford), and said, "Have my baby." We went on two dates total, my hair still long. I must not have wanted a baby so soon: at almost 39. On one of the two dates, I had slathered my arms, legs, and chest with mentholated rub. My muscles felt constantly punished as if by invisible forces. I smelled only menthol and almost could not eat. His mother had had her last of nine children at the age of 52. "Never let anyone tell you you can't have a baby until you're 52," he confided.

[Corrected slightly and improved for style, June 24, 2014, age 52; original entry, June 6, 2006]

Texas Was Better, short story

We’ve come rowing in our boat for gasoline. The last place didn’t have it. The first place sold us food. We ate heaps of beans and rice with plastic forks. This is better than in New York. The further the better. But there’s a limit.

So I think about having not gone to Canada. Had I gone to Canada pluperfect. What Canada would have looked like from the boat, what it would have looked like from the shore, with my back to it, having already seen it, saying later in New York that the lox had been delicious. "The gardens are well-kept due to a still-thriving sense of civic pride." What people had heard.

Had I gone to Canada--but in particular had I gone to Halifax--I would have walked until I had found the three cats. It would have been like Hemingway’s cats--I would have looked for the descendants of the three cats that had slept under the house where my professor had lived with her professor--married. This is how it came about, she had said.

In the story there were a large caesar salad and a guest. Her marriage ended before they ate the salad--she and the professor broke their vows over bread. The guest left hungry. The child continued. Over the course of further stories her daughter became her friend, but not in forward order.

In a story of my friend’s--one my professor would not have heard--the daughter did worse things to her room than not clean it. After some months, my friend ordered my professor’s daughter to wash dishes.

My professor drove the mountains in spring, when the buds were red. Had she not told me about the red spring, I would have gone on seeing the usual yellow spring from my apartment. I went out to it. Probably my windows were dirty. It was a beautiful movie. The buds were red--it seemed they were dying at the beginning. I had no idea what fall would be--bright fish composing on Beethoven Street.

If you had said, "Let’s go to Canada," we would have gone, if I had thought you meant it. You didn’t have a car. How many men have not been taken seriously for not having a car? You gave your reasons: the ozone layer, carbon monoxide, but really it was your DUIs. The relationship would have felt different had you driven.

Eventually, I dreaded to see you drive. Because driving one should never look small. What if you had driven and looked small? Or thin or stiff or overly law-abiding? You would not have found my back seat so congenial for your blues harp.

It was the first clean sheets in a month. The best without someone. Bugs had not wanted to come into this house. (Where were the much-prophesied cockroaches?) The cats saw the one bug on the ceiling and sat still for an hour tracking it.

Texas was better in the story of your birth in El Paso’s fluke of a dust storm. I imagined your mother giving birth to you at the center of the storm, not, as she must have done, on the military base. I came here thinking that I was returning to your birthplace in your place.

Had we driven, we would have stopped in Memphis, knowing what I now know about Memphis. Even as I flew, gasoline prices went up. Had we driven, we would have beaten the panic by moving slower than it.

We would not have eaten the rice and beans en route. We would have eaten them in southern Louisiana or in New Mexico. Would you have guessed this?

Originally--a story you would not have heard--New Mexico was to be the location of our ranch. My friend and I would have lived in the house. You and my ex- would have lived in town. Not that my friend would have belonged to my ex-. I was to have both you and my ex-, and my friend would have been there to talk to. She could have had anyone she wanted.

This had been a daydream. The image of the ranch, looking back on it, prefigured my friend’s affair with my ex- and her falling in love with you. The daydream as described in the letter is preserved. She got a typed copy. Her idea had not been so different except she at that time would have brought her ex- --also relegated to town.

Well, daydreams being equal and sort of meaningless, neither here nor there.

Still, it was useful to imagine the four of us in New Mexico and in the pattern I had been used to. It was a way to move without changing and to keep the terrible power I had in a new setting.

My ex- thinks about Nova Scotia--he had gone there as an Eagle Scout but dropped out after the trip.

(First written in 1990; published in Submodern Fiction in 2003.)

Poetry at Veery Books

I met Victoria Bouroncle, nee Edwards, now Tester, while we were both studying creative writing at the University of Houston in the 1990s. Her book of poems, Miracles of Sainted Earth (University of New Mexico Press, 2002) just arrived on my desk, a gift from Veery Books. Here is one of the poems:

Bill Evans Lake, 1999

The last cold Sunday of the millenium
we fished among the waterweeds and the chamiso.

My son looked into the gold
jewel eye of the black duck
and the secret eye of the crane
and swore that he'd live, too.

I prayed every dark road in him
would lead to a place like this:

where he must have been before.

Not the two empty beers in an old fire.
Or the shirt sleeve the other boy cut away with a knife

so he could take a pure animal shit
behind the junipers.

Or maybe those, too.

I'm talking about deep water
ringed by mountains, and delighted
creatures staring back and willing to live

under the same sun, the same shadows.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Cigs, (short story)

“It’s like hungering for a year of cigs. A year of cigs, a yard full of cigs. Stick ’em in my face. Burn me out. Kill me with their emotional therapy.

I stay sleeping to avoid wanting to smoke. 'Dread Baron' was wrong in saying volition seems gone from the world. There is plenty of the kind that heads toward death. Early death, early retirement, takes care of each emotion until it kills you at 50.

I don’t want to smoke. How can I convince myself? I say it, but I know that my body will become a pear for three years, not fat per se, but newly formed. Gelatinous, new ridges. From not pounding my heart so hard just watching TV. I can take walks, I can fix my bike, I can join a swim pool, yoga day. Can type better, if I try. My fingers are sleepy. I am sleepy, too, from no speed-er-up. No coffee, no cigs, want to fall down sleeping all the time.

What about sub drugs from a shrink? Mood-altering chemicals from a shrink? Pain is pain. Emotional pain is emotional pain. They teach that emotional pain is physical pain, culture pain is science pain, but they cannot test for the absence of these synaptic conclusions. I will say, if you can test me and find something missing, then you can supplement me for the missing thing, but don’t play chemical guess work in my body.

'Tenny' resists less because drugs are his favorite response to all life’s situations. The only thing not drug is sex, and he approaches sex as a drug, to cure pain. Uses sex to end love pain. Love to end sex pain.

My throat is sore, but the soreness is from not smoking. Going back would not help and would make me feel resigned to risk death at 50 from early laziness. Also, there would be a lost sense of free will. All my oratories would be about the inevitability of all life.

'Rye Character’s' stories would have been different had he gotten off the cigs. They say booze kills, but much more often, cigs kill. Cigs are not okay, not mild, not non-reactive. They smooth every emotion, tame every flare up. Cigs are quick like crack must be quick. I can’t imagine that there would be a lot of difference, except with crack cops would be involved. Say crack gives you a buzz. Cigs give you a buzz, too, but you don’t know that after a while. Then you need another one.

Cigs kill. Reports say that cigs kill more people than anything in the U.S. Not booze. Booze hardly kills, even drunk driving, compared to cigs. Cigs cost the public in hospital bills, years on end, trying to stomp out the avoidable disease. Maybe cigs are bad because of other chemicals. Then take them out. Smoke Lucky’s or Camels or American Spirits. I loved to smoke. I loved to smoke. Where will be the next love? Where will be the courage to face life not smoking?

Every cig you light you know you’re killing yourself. Early. Not that you wouldn’t die but that you are hastening death. In these writers, they’re dying twenty years sooner than other people. They write about sadness. Every one thinks their sadness is universal, but it’s the sadness of a tobacco addict, a self-killer. Not family, not friends, not cancer, not wisdom stop them from offing themselves every twenty minutes. Addicts.

Got my cereal box here for munching. Got my list of to do.

. . .

Maybe I just want to smoke more this minute because I am writing and drinking coffee and it’s a test. It’s hardest the first day giving up an old practice. The first day was nearly impossible. Not undoable but nearly so. I wanted to smoke or die. But after I had passed the addiction period, it was my mind telling me. They say if you can hold out, if you can stick with it and ignore the damn memories of loving your little white lover man sticks, then the desire becomes less and less. You get over it. You try.

That is all I know how to say.

It would not be acceptable to go back and suck down a pack of Camels because I would still want to smoke when I had done that. I want to smoke now though I don’t smoke, and I’d want to smoke then, if I did smoke. The wanting to is constant whether I do it or don’t. Not smoking is harder for a while, then, they say, the urges begin to decline. You begin to fit into a life without smoking.

Give myself a break. Twenty-year habit begun as a child. I am bound to feel more pressure. There is no memory like my memory of liberation through cigs. Good memories of independence and liberation and being smarter than parents in smoking. The other self, the other person, the bad self, the sexy self, the sinner self, the not wanting to be all good all the time because it was so hard to be perfect, the rebelling by smoking and sex (which I never really chose then but was proud of, as if accomplished).

My mother must have been very angry to see me get away from her grasp that way. Don’t smoke! Alarm. Don’t smoke! Who is smoking for? It is for rebelling. Who has me locked up now? Cigs, that’s who. Cigs. Don’t do it. The devil dog is cigarettes.

Devil Dog, God as my witness, Devil Cigarette Humper, Go Exactly to Hell!

It was cigs I loved, not life. That’s true. Cigs, not life. Cigs were the little punctuations in each day I needed to feel alive, to feel life was worth something. Cigs. Cigs are life? Are cigs life for addicts? What is life for the non-addict, me? For me, life is life, I suppose. What is life to be life to someone? What is life to be life to someone?”


Unmailed Letter to UK

Dear K,

Greetings from C. C. Club in Minneapolis in the Lynlake neighborhood. If you have a tic tac toe or a bingo or a lotto game running through your life, you may say, "I win." K. wins with his bona fide good heart.

This place is like Lola's in Houston without the purple wall. I'm mentally flirting to little avail -- that they are mentally gay or mentally gray. Each man alone and men sitting with one another are using cell phones.

K. has a dear, married heart. You are high on my list for good times lived without nasty backlash coming of it afterward. You deserve a big purple heart in the war on drugs.

I miss Houston. It's like Collin Gibbons said -- everyone who leaves Houston returns.

I have bizarre and happy fantasies of seeing you and of living in your garage apartment and of being one of your girlfriends and of having a boy or a girl with blond hair and green eyes or of moving alone to Cleveland and of calling you from there.

I said it's okay to love someone but not to bust a marriage, which is my own but a minority point of view. It's better to live well and die in penury than to live poorly and die well-off.

Happy is how I always felt to know you. You are a winner in my book.

(June 4, 2006)