750words Feb 11 2015 ~ The Dress Form

Once upon a time there was a dress form made of wandering leaves cut from tin and rigid iron which stood near the window and waited. Rusted bronze in color, the form wore a narrow belt of hammered tin and a pendant in the shape of a clock that opened and could hold a paper cutout heart or a picture of someone dear, or both, along with a lock of hair and a button from a favorite shirt.

The form was headless. Its bottom edge was where a woman’s legs ended once they went all the way up. Crossbars ran from one side of the bottom edge of the form to the other. Where the bars crossed, they rested upon a hollow iron column almost the size of a vacuum cleaner wand. The column supported the form and stood vertical and straight with four curvilinear legs which ended in curly-ques on the floor and kept the form from tilting or tipping over when the weight of the sun slapped it with day’s flat palm of light.

All day long the form waited, tin leaves never wilting, tin belt without a pucker or sag. Its shoulders kept very good posture through every disappointment, every new mote of dust that settled atop the rounded surfaces of rigid iron, plus all the tickling shifts of light as day walked up the sky and over the roof of the casa where the form was kept.

Because the form was headless, it could not sigh. Air was immobile, did not move outward or inward, was simply there, within the form, surrounding the form, and, because the form was skinless, it could be seen through from all sides—the leaves twining its back like a visible echo of the leaves twining its front. In essence, it was as empty as the clock-shaped pendant worn about its neck: a hollow chamber made of vertical spines held in line by the hammered belt and the absent hands of an artisan who once upon a time sculpted the form of an invisible woman.

The form’s patience was endless as it waited through the morning light, the afternoon shade, the deeper shades of evening, the dark balmy nights pin-pricked by stars and an indecisive moon which showed itself incrementally only to hide itself in the same manner. All the form wanted was to be used. To be useful. To carry the weight of a shawl or a shirt or a dress. A summer scarf woven of chiffon and light as a feather would have pleased the form. Was it asking so very much to sense such a scarf’s supple softness draping its posture-perfect shoulders, the drape of its length running the length of its meandering leaves, perhaps the finely rolled narrow hem of one end tossed casually around its headless neck? These, or any one of these sensations, would’ve brought comfort to the form.

But the form’s mistress, who once crafted sundry items the form could support, no longer busied herself with such things. Rather than a crafter of textiles, its mistress had given over such industry to become a crafter of words. The click of knitting needles had been replaced by the tickety-tick of the keyboard, the construction of syllables ricocheting about the room where the form waited, and the plumes of smoke rising from the numerous cigarettes the form’s mistress smoked during her frenzied attempts to shape words into stories.

If the form owned a head for worry and angst, for whining and winges about its plight of existence, it might have expressed by thought or a tilted angle of its stand the injustice of being left idle, the unfairness of words chained together which could not be worn, the waste of her mistress’s imagination on airy nothings. What were words, anyway? What made them so important? They couldn’t be fitted over the form, couldn’t be straight-pinned into pleasant and pleasing designs, couldn’t decorate the form’s elegant vining of tin leaves, the meandering ways of pressed metals. If the form owned a head capable of emotions, it would be vexed.

As it is, the form doesn’t own any such head. It doesn’t own legs—only a stiffly elegant four-footed stand. It can’t run away. Can’t show its displeasure in regard to being unused, ignored, left by a window to gather dust and sun in the morning, pinpricks of light by night. It might think, if it could, how fine it would be if stories and poems were semi-solid things—items woven from silk and wool, from bamboo fibers and flax—articles woven with structure and beauty, their endings evenly hemmed with perfectly spaced similes, their beginnings draped and tossed lightly about this waiting form’s headless neck.


750words Jan 31 2015 — I’m Pretty Sure It’s Not Art

When I think about all the things I’ve made (there must be hundreds, thousands), I go off course (as with that parenthetical, and this one) because I can’t settle on where to take this sentence, end this thought.

By “made” I mean constructed, built, brought into being via needle and thread, embroidery floss, hoop, yarn and hook, canvas and brush, oils, acrylics, watercolors, sanded paper and pastels, sewing machines, scissors, fabric, beads, looms, buttons, white glue, mortar, concrete, draw knives, logs, seeds and tubers and bulbs, saplings, cuttings, mulch, clay pots, broken china, this womb, classes and jobs and neighborhoods (where friendships bud and bloom), paper, pen, keyboard and words.

With words I’ve built poems, moments, emotions, scenes, stories, landscapes, towns, farms and congregations. I’ve built people from scratch, borrowing fragments from real lives (the broken-veined nose of an old farmer who drank too much, an eyelid that refuses to open from a George Carlin comedic routine, hands and forearms dusted with flower and the knobby knuckles of a grandmother, anger from an aunt’s husband, pathetic self-pity from myself), and patched them into singular beings. I’ve transplanted a beating heart into the breast of the ocean, given swells and breakers a pulse, drowned a dolphin with six-pack carrier plastic, and shared the imagined life of a rock.

With broken china I’ve built benches and bird baths, embedded horseshoes and bedsprings between concrete rubble and marble chessboards to create patios, sidewalks and planters. Gardens emerged from cuttings and mulch—red bud saplings bloomed cyrise through my Februarys, Aprils and Mays. Flags of iris waved, hollyhocks spired to the house eaves, pink roses fell in cascades from the Trees of Heavenly Light along the road to the creek while corkscrew willow curved paths skyward from the muck of the mosaic’d pond.

The sofa in Grandma Due’s Borger, Texas apartment is where I sat as she taught me to thread a needle, embroider the fur on a kitten and french-knot the centers of daisies. The sofa at Grandma Ivy’s is where she showed me how to loop yarn around a finger to cross my palm for tension and maneuver a metal hook in and out of a chain stitch with single, double, and triple crochets. The sofa in the first house Al and I shared is where I taught myself to knit from book.

Nine years later, he taught me how to straddle a log, lean out as far as arms could reach, snug a draw knife’s sharpened edge into bark at an angle—and pull. Long curls of bark peeled away. Callouses toughened my butt as I slid back along those logs. There were 800 of them. I didn’t work alone. His dad, his brothers, our nine year old son, neighbors—pitched in and peeled. Eventually, we hired help. Eventually, we started bolting logs together. Eventually, we had a lodgepole pine home two stories tall and heated with burning love.

From this womb, three babies had their beginnings. (Passive construction is the only way I know how to describe my part in their becoming. I provided fertile territory for seeds to take root and thrive.)

Friendships sprang up across the hills and valleys of this life.

How do I take credit for these? I can’t.

I can’t take credit for any creation listed above. Oh, I did become a tool, I suppose, for continuing with a craft. Maybe a bit more than a tool. Maybe a partner … and still a partner … with Grandmothers—Emma and Elsie—with Mama, Daddy, my children (and theirs), friends, lovers, lovers, friends. But the things—all the things—wouldn’t be, would not have become without the hands-on help and direction of others.

So many others.

My children wouldn’t be who they are if it weren’t for who they were to begin with, that mysterious spark of life, that mix of Al and me. My friends wouldn’t be my friends if they didn’t find some redeemable quality in me, if they didn’t have patience with my stubborn side and often moody disposition.

Even these words strewn across the screen wouldn’t amount to much if there weren’t a reader—a partner—taking them in. Like a teeter-totter needs counterweight for the ride to be real, for the rise and the fall to occur, story (or whatever you may want to call this) needs audience. Eyes and minds to decipher what in blue blazes the words may be intended to say. I use the word “may” because the meaning, the base material out of which this construct began, has frayed. Broken threads all over the place. Repairs and alterations are in order. Or not. It could be I’ve built something here. It could be … but … I’m pretty sure it’s not art.

Road Sales: New & 2nd hand

Boulevard Benito Juarez, you change
your name and shape like actors take
a role apart from what they are – the
services of town come down like a
curtain where artisans of iron, wood,
fired clay, makers of doors, jugs,
crucifix, candelabra, hat rack, sconce
ply their industries from your shoulders
made of road dust fine as powder lost
from a Monarch’s yellow wings. 
I pass Fox Studios and the Master
and Commander of the Far Seas’
tall ship, hear Mexican guitar chords –
not mandolin, nor fiddle – and all
the nimble fingers of the carpenters
at task, the blacksmiths bending iron
to their will and design, and painters
of bright pots using whites and greens
and blues, yellow-reds, purples on
iguanas, parrots, lilies of the fields. 
Where am I in this tableau of creation? 
La mujer I came here as, is cloaked
in skirts  and shirts easy on old skin,
arms laden with a script edited by tides,
the scrawled workings of sand crabs, 
brown hands and pink flames burning.


[After Ted Kooser, Garage Sale, Delights & Shadows]