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.

The Person Who Lives in the Blood : An After Words Fable

There is a person who lives in the blood.  Everyone has one and some have more than one.  Some are big, some small.   All are noisy and live in boats.  The persons who live in our blood are never talked about, doctors don’t mention them nor labmen, but there isn’t any doubt whatever about their existence.  When a newborn takes her first breath, or him, the person inside the blood is the cause.  They are said to paddle their boats up to the cry dial and turn it a quarter turn, wait, if no cry is announced to the world, another quarter turn is added, and so on – then they oar a short distance away, make sure all is okay, row off to other arterial canals, exploring the brand new life.

At night when life is calm, the person inside leaves her boat, or his, and floats on her back, watching a thousand synapses tremble and fire all along the dome of the veins.  The persons are often quite lonely through most of their lives.  They do, in fact, die, eventually, but sad as that may be, they seldom encounter the others, even when several others help to maintain the host.  It would be utterly silly to believe otherwise – consider the scope of the body universe? nevermind all the auras and such grown beyond the physical limits of skin.

No, they exist in quite solitary ways, scraping the placque off their small boats when not needed to dial up the cries or lower the pressure on tears.  Each has his, or her, own emotional curve, of course, to maintain, but, in general, the persons who live in the boats in the blood remain stoic, if not content.

When at last the voyages of the person bring her, or him, into close proximity with the chambers of the heart, for the first time they each well and truly know fear.  After a while they get the boat righted again and flowing less chaotic currents again, but the tiny, tiny hearts inside the persons who ride in our blood do pound awfully loud for a pulse beat or two or three.  Funny how fear can create euphoria.  Sadly, once the person tastes that Whoosh through the rooms of the heart, their stoicism departs. 


[After W.S. Merwin , THE TASTE, from The Book of Fables]

Rope for Her : an After Words Fable

In the beginning rope for her meant a way out.  It was long and made of small hairs that fall off the backs of black and white cows so that when all of the hairs were hand knit together they made a checkerboard of light and dark diamonds.  The rope was exceedingly strong, the knitting done by tiny hands too small to do anything else and the owners of such hands, to stay useful and secure their jobs, did the knitting with such precision and earnest desires that their ropes were made like no others. She liked to look at the rope, she did, but she really hadn’t the need of one, not then, not when she had no desire to leave a place where she was content.

     After a while, and because the rope was left out where it could be admired, attached as it was to a ring in a high wall in case she changed her mind and needed a way out – after a while the rope began to be eaten by small hair-eating bugs who preferred the black hairs to the white.  This left her with a rope that looked as if it had been made of white lace!  A dainty rope!  A beautiful rope!  But not a rope for escape.  So what?  She thought very little about leaving.  Things were not so bad.  And she had the lace rope to admire.  She couldn’t complain.

     When a complaint appeared one day in her throat, like a frog in the throat of a nervous speaker, the appearance of lace the rope had once had – had vanished.  What remained looked like dirty string – common dirty string.  She let the complaint stay lodged in her throat, not even a whisper emerged.  After awhile, she forgot how to make sound.  Even song had begun to sound like complaint to the ears of those who could hear; and they weren’t very big on complaint of any kind.  The safest thing, with only a string of what once was a rope, was quiet.

     She lived in quiet for a very long time.  The string rotted away, disappeared into nothing, just as her voice had done.  And her eyes, which, from time to time, had seemed somehow accusatory to her keepers, her eyes she had taken to keeping closed for long periods of time, until, when she opened them now, they were all the same color of white.  When irises are unneeded, they take offense and go.  Just so with hers.  They’d left half an eon ago.  But her ears were still the same.  Well, not exactly the same.  With age they’d grown bigger, longer, wider.  And her hearing, because there was only that one sense (other than feeling, oh, well, and smelling), had grown keener over the passing years.

     Thus it was that she heard the root of a distant tree.  Ear pressed to one stone in the wall of her keep, she heard pebbles move.  True, they moved at a very slow pace, but move they did.  After a time, the root broke a stone from the upper wall, not far from the ancient ring where the black and white diamond-patterned rope once hung in all its meticulous glory. 

Daily the root grew.  She could not see it with her white eyes, and she could not feel it, it was far too high up yet to touch, but she could hear it.  And she could smell it, earthy like a potato, but not.  She would make a sound in celebration of such a rescue as that the root would provide, but she could not, even if she remembered how, her lips had grown together in such a way that no sound could escape.  When, after a very long time, the root reached the floor of the keep, it waited there offering a barely perceptible dangle.  How sad for her that at the very moment the root came within reach she found her bones all knit together!  She could not move, in any direction.  Slowly, her ears filled with dust and webs and spiders.  Eventually, the root, tired of waiting, took off again with a growth spurt, feeling its way around the circular well where she had lived for such a long time that she had been forgotten.  The root grew through her then, never even realizing. 

In the spring, the blossoms on the tree, the one that seems always to be reaching for a sky it can’t quite reach, are all the same color of white.



[after W.S. Merwin, Hope for Her, The Book of Fables]

The Knife Maker


The knife maker didn’t start out with a perfect knife.  He was a keeper of birds and at that time there were birds that came to be known as “jays” which were kept for their feathers-more blue than ocean or sky, weightless as the web of a spider, tough as lichen on a rock and the rock hosting the lichen.   Even the shade whispered in awe at their brightness, blinked at their sharp cutting tails that flashed like blades of blue glacier ice at the bird’s whim.  The knife maker gathered the feathers from the birds’ pens for the fashion industry of the day and took them to the long paths of women who nimbly knit them together with the sinew of stringy ducks’ legs, making long gowns of iridescent blue, indescribable blue-gowns bartered away by the knife maker’s mountain people with shore peoples who traded shells with sharpened edges for the dresses.    The sharpened shells made breakable scrapers and weapons that shattered in the hand and the knife maker, keeper of birds, watching the feathered tails of the jays in their shaded pens, watching the shade flinch at the sharpness and shape of those tails, picked up a hard stone and began shaping it with another, honing away the lichens and honing the sides into the sharpness, if not the color, of the jays’ tails. 


After mountain knives were perfected, feather dresses weren’t needed for barter and jays were freed from their high-netted pens to scatter the skies over valley and shore. There were no shore people left, no one to wear the blue gowns once the knife-maker perfected his craft. The jays began squawking. They have squawked ever since.

It is said that when the knife maker puts away his hard shaping stone that the jays will warble arias of great beauty. In September of the year two thousand and eight, this has not happened to date.


[After W.S. Merwin, “The Broken,” The Book of Fables]

The Star Panther

There is a panther so large that when it walks the cosmos solar spots flare on earth’s sun and Mercury winces, grows fractionally smaller until the increase in heat dissipates and that planet can sigh with regained expansion.  In this cup of all universes it stalks gazelles behind stars.  Its belly rides close to the edges of Saturns by other names in other systems as it slinks toward its prey.  There are many such panthers deep in the systems prowling the stars, devouring gazelles for nourishment and each of them leaving their spoor just as the gazelles leave their vaporous gases-signs predators, in a long line of predators, live by.  The gazelles never sleep.  In due course they faint from unrest and as their legs drop from behind star cover the dark panther moves in to banquet upon what it has sought for a thousand days or years, surviving through lonely space on the termites shaken from comets as they passed him or her.  (There are truly more she panthers than he in the cosmos but they are so far beyond political correctness that such manners of speech go unnoticed.  And unsaid.)  They are lethargic, these panthers, when full and in their fullness is when gazelles flock to the most distant nebulae to mate and calf new springers and dancers to dash the great savannahs of heaven, leading the waking cats on spiraling journeys across silk clouds hung with rose damask and black velvet robes thrown off for the night by bears that no longer wear fur.  They maneuver space and around all objects in space as if traveling the same roads over and over again, never bumping an asteroid or stepping upon an Alp sprung from Venus with hooves that would rive the planet in half or split the ranges away into space to become another moon.  No.  The infant gazelles race owls in flight and laugh at panthers’ sly moves and stealth until their lives spin out.

            The hunt has gone on from the beginning.  Before gazelles the panthers stalked owls and before panthers the owls stalked the small furry mice of night.  These days you can hardly find one!  Theoreticians in some quarters of the cosmos surmise the increase in comet termites is due to the decrease in mice of the night.  There are dissenters, of course.  Of course there are dissenters.



[after reading W. S. Merwin’s “The Camel Moth” from The Book of Fables]


word count 412

When One Cicada Stopped Singing (Imitating Ernest H.)

One rainy afternoon in Lisbon there were male cicadas in the weeds.  Within seven minutes it got loud and the thunderclouds went in, and the long humans with wide feet in protective shells on the bottom opened single wings over their heads and abandoned the street.  Two stayed near and made mud-women like snowmen with their top feet unprotected and pink.  She and Buz could see them above on the ditch lip.  Buz sat on a rock.  He was stiff and green in the cold ditch.

Buz sang with dual tymbals in his abdomen for one reason.  She was happy to let him.  When he performed for her he elevated her with the cicada rhythm; and they had songs, amazing-fine songs.  She succumbed, quivering lightly upon a cattail so she would not click-clicky about things during the noisy, mating moment.  Before she learned to cling to cattails she used to make a racket and Buz would have to get back on the rock.  There were many other cicadas, and they all knew about it.  Not one envied Buz. 

Before she left for the ponds they hid under a Ford and played.  It was slick and oily, and there were other cicadas click-clicking.  They wanted to stay monogamous, but their genes might not allow – both had other instincts.  They saw through monogamy, for they witnessed human failures, and because of this they tried it.

Buz drummed her many songs that she never got until after her season.  Ninety came on the wind to the ponds and she picked through the clicks and sat quiet straight through.  They were all about the ditch, and how little he missed her and how it was lovely to sing along without her and how beautifully all the males click-clicked in the night.

Before her season they fought about her move to the River to lay eggs.  Buz would not join her until she had laid several thousand down the cattail stems and could come to the aqueduct to meet him.  It was understood she would not eat the eggs, and she would not give them to any frogs or fish in the River.  Only to lay the future larvae and be monogamous.  In the air between Lisbon and Mill Pond they agreed about him not becoming monogamous at once.  Not until when they rubbed hello, in the wild iris at Mill Pond, would he sing only her song.  This they swore in agreement.  She felt pink with envy about his singing to others like that.

She came to the River upon a leaf via the Aqueduct.  Buz went back to sit in a ditch on the outskirts of Lisbon.  It was raucous and noisy there, and a swarm of homopteran insects whirred near the water.  Loitering on the dry bank in the sun, the females of the swarm asked Buz not to sing, and he had never known mute mating before, and finally sent a relayed song to the River that theirs had been only an incomplete metamorphosing relationship.  He was glad, and he knew she would be too, and would soon thank him, and be envious of him, and he believed, without question, he would never want to sing again or be monogamous in his life.  He would mate her as before, but he knew now theirs was only a fragmentary union.  He wished her success with the thousands of eggs, but had doubts about her leaving them to drop and burrow.  He sang his one last note.

These females did not have seasons, and mated him in the winter, and all other times.  Buz heard a song, relayed from the River about her.  A short song about the long line of larvae she ate before they could burrow while celebrating his silence, which bloated her thorax until she exploded while clinging to milkweed beside the sewer.

[word count 653] [from the old files, May 1998, imitating Ernest H. style]