The woman sits up all night, listening to it rain. The woman has often sat up all night waiting for one thing or another to either leave or arrive: bandaged fingers, whooping cough, her own lookalike grandchildren. When she can, she sleeps next to her dying mother in the king-sized bed; she bangs her own shins on the high rails, climbing in. Her arms and hands are able to lift the wasted body of her dying mother with amazing ease.
She watches & waters the great rack of African violets in the living room; grows wheat grass for her mother’s cat. Other times, she sits in a high-backed wooden chair, needlepointing forests in wool, chain-smoking for hours. Her mother will die very soon; then the daughter will put on her navy dress with a large, elaborate organdy collar and fail to draw a deep breath for several days. The woman’s several brothers and their children will fly in from all over the country, and flower offerings will dwarf the grave itself.
After the burial, the woman will pack all sorts of mementoes into her mother’s old cedar “hope” chest: yearbooks, diaries, photographs, diplomas, invitations, programs, baby booties, baby spoons, baby cups, even a rather grisly alligator purse, complete with the head, legs, tail & feet and sharp black claws. When she has nightmares, more often now, she sits up all night, her fluffy gray tabby queen on her lap like a hot-water bottle. The cat’s purring leads the woman away from the perilous mountain passes & rocky cliffsides inside her head and back to level ground, so she can help her mother die properly. That is what proper love looks like, she thinks.
Filed under beauty, blood, cancer, compassion, daughter, daughters, death, development, dream, dreams, eternal, eternity, everything, faith, family, fiction, forgiveness, god, grief, heart, hope, human beings, humanity, identity, karma, kindness, life, loss, love, mama, Uncategorized
Empire State Building
Twenty years ago we finally went to see the sights,
riding the train through flashing dim green suburb,
glassy sharp-edged slum, the skin stretched
pale and tight over your fine cheekbones —
you didn’t really know how to be afraid of death,
simply of heights and under-grounds:
you wanted always to be on the surface of the earth.
Your demise was still an abstraction,
discussed in the evening while sucking cool mints —
the natural order of things. I dragged you
all the way to the city under the water from Hoboken,
then marched you up to the roof of what was the tallest
building in the whole world when you were young.
I haven’t been here since it was built, you said,
and though the blood sank to your innards in panic,
you kept walking; I kept pushing and pulling you
forward, propelling your solid weight like a cart
loaded with spring lambs. Your hand, soft
wrinkled palm, roughened fingers speckled white
around the knuckles, gripped mine, but I showed
no mercy; I was forcing you to confront the bitter
end ahead of schedule. I was being cruel
to make you go look at the thin sparkling air
of the heavens and you knew it. But later,
my love, as you lay sweating, heavy and motionless
in your bed as though carved of wood, deprived
for weeks of even the common decency of words,
weren’t you glad you went with me once more to the top?
Filed under beauty, compassion, courage, daughter, daughters, death, empire, enlightenment, eternal, eternity, faith, family, fear, grief, heart, hope, human beings, humanity, kindness, loss, love, mama, memoir, mortality, mother, mothers, mourning, mysterious, poetry, soul, spirit, spiritual, spirituality, transcendence, transitions, tribute, truth, universe, wish
You may not remember me, but I was at Le Cirque one night, that December, when you were having sex with Marla & trying to get rid of poor Ivana. Remember your ski trip? I was there for that too! Isn’t life funny? Anyway, Ivana was still running the Plaza. You hadn’t destroyed it yet. Of course you would be instrumental in that, letting that fabulous, fabulous hotel where Scott & Zelda frolicked in the fountain — and where I & my daughters enjoyed many a Sunday brunch — get turned into condos (using nonunion labor, of course). Even then we knew what you were made of, and it was ticky-tacky.
You were a prematurely balding joke, you were getting soft & going broke, and your lovely, long-legged girl spoke to me — at length — while we were in the ladies’ together. She asked to borrow my lipstick. I’m a nice Southern girl, too, so like sorority sisters we joshed about the men we were with that night. We joshed about stuff like sex, and how it was really funny how men were so simple, so easily fooled. Turns out my mother knew her mother from way back!
I actually asked poor Marla what she thought of Trump Tower. One of my friends had tried to get me to go inside but I refused. It was too ugly, and you’d torn down that beautiful Art Deco facade & not even given it to the Metropolitan like you promised! I wish I’d known that night what you’d be up to in 2016, because I would have spit on your plate on my way out the door. I have good aim. I was a tomboy.
Anyway, back in the Le Cirque ladies’, Marla giggled and said she didn’t really like it much herself, but that she’d never tell you because she knew how much building that brass & glass dick substitute (her words, not mine) meant to you. Apparently insecurity knows no bounds. Plus, she thought you were rich. She played that gig pretty well, I must say.
I myself was there with my then-husband, a man who is on one of the Nobel Prize nominating committees. I was there while my then-husband & his boss discussed you at table. You were too busy grabbing Marla’s sweet little pussy under the table over in the corner to notice much else. So, while you pussy-grabbed, my then-husband & his boss regaled me & my then-husband’s boss’ wife (a tall, blonde doctor whose Polish-born mother had survived Auschwitz) with the rumors (all true) of your imminent financial demise.
You were also a complete laughingstock down in Palm Beach. All of old Palm Beach hated you! I’d heard how you were ruining Mar-a-Lago — which I’d visited as a child, playing happily out in the garden whilst the grownups did boring things inside which didn’t involve roses, or butterflies, or dogs. You destroyed it, just like you destroyed that beautiful Art Deco facade. And, by the way, I know all about Jared’s brother. And your youngest kid.
So you thought being President of the United States would be easy? Cry me a fucking river, Herr Blotus. I know exactly who you are. You’re that pudgy asshole crybaby who got sent to military school for beating up the little kids. You’re that fat old man who cut off his nephew’s health insurance because he didn’t like the way his nephew refused to bow & scrape to him after he stole his nephew’s inheritance. Honestly, sir, you are nothing more than a piece of shit.
Filed under adultery, anger, anthem, assholes, child abuse, con man, con men, corporate states of amerka, criminal, criminal behavior, criminals, daughter, daughters, evil, father, fatherhood, fathers, fear, federal judge, hypocrisy, idiots, ignorance, insecurity, jerks, justice, karma, law, legal system, legal writing, letters, manifesto, memoir, murder, personal responsibility, racism, satire, sexism, tea party mad hatters, trump, truth, united states of america, users, war
Conceived on Valentine’s Day, a poem
In the beginning, I almost hated them for bringing me into the world…
alone as egg, one floats weightless, drifting peacefully like a helium balloon,
and as sperm, one swims in ever-widening circles with serene joy.
I never approved the union: his tiny-tailed kamikaze wriggling to oblivion,
smashing headfirst into the mammalian membrane of her egg.
But now I love my frail universe; evidence of their short, fraught marriage.
They cooked me in the kitchen, first upon a midcentury, glitter-red dinette set,
then on gleaming, spotless black & white linoleum. I remember my mother
at that exact moment, the way she arched dizzily beneath him half-clothed…
her strapless formal askew, her silk stockings awry, her feet bare
after kicking off her spike heels. Barefoot & pregnant in the kitchen, she learned
quickly to live with organized madness. A love collision, a soft accident, birthed me.
She opened her soul to my father like a flower opening to the sun & he did the same;
my hands, my feet, my face suddenly called into existence by heat & explosions.
Filed under beauty, childbirth, daughter, daughters, dream, dreams, eternal, eternity, evolution, faith, family, father, fatherhood, fathers, heart, hope, love, mama, marriage, mortality, mother, mothers, mysterious, nature, parenting, passion, poetry, pregnancy, relationships, sex, soul, spirit, spiritual, spirituality, transcendence, tribute, truth, warmth, wish, woman, women
PRETZELS & CHOCOLATE
(rented room, cigarettes)
I am eating pretzels
and they are hard
but splinter into salty crumbs
with the merest bite
they only satisfy
part of my tongue
(rented room, cigarettes)
so I pick up the chocolate
greedy for it to melt
against my palate
sucking the firm square
feeling it mold to me
the way I imagine
my body molds to yours
(rented room, cigarettes)
retaining the character of sweetness
to complement the salt
to balance my mouth
I am eating chocolate
thinking of us
(rented room, cigarettes)
Filed under acceptance, adolescence, adult children of alcoholics, ancient history, apology, appeals, artistic failures, assholes, beauty, birth, black, blood, Catholic, child abuse, child neglect, childbirth, childhood, children of alcoholics, christian, compassion, con man, daughter, death, development, divorce, dream, dreams, enlightenment, eternal, eternity, faith, family, father, fatherhood, fathers, fear, fiction, for children, forgiveness, friendship, funeral, gay marriage, god, grief, he, health, Uncategorized
The Analysand, a short fiction
“I’ll take your word for it,” she said.
She remembered long-forgotten moments; instances of innocence, of confidence, of hope. Her analyst wanted more from her than pages in her journal, more than frozen images which may… or may not… have actually happened. Four bundles of smooth, shiny, purple rope lay on the coffee table in his office, four beautifully coiled bundles, bound & tied with intricate, ceremonial knots. His eyes met hers; bright blue lamps of inquisitiveness and Inquisition.
“Where do you get that kind of rope?” she asked.
“I make it,” he said. “I dye it with Tyrian purple and condition it with organic beeswax.”
She kept her face neutral; curious. She’d had enough of fake tourist traps for a dozen lifetimes; boring main highways hadn’t ever led her to anyplace she’d want to stay in for long. And the sun rises even after the darkest night. And the sun sets after the sunniest day. Night has its own charms. Her wounds were on the inside… and his? His… would be healed by helping her heal her own. The rope laid on the table, gleaming & inscrutable. Her favorite violin, a Bergonzi, sat silent & helpless on her lap.
She’d been dead so long; she’d wanted her to speak for herself for so long. Her mother had treated her like anything but a daughter; pupil, instructor, heathen, missionary, ghost, confessor, beggar, heir, therapist, patient. So strike a pose; strike a deal; strike a match. What difference does any of it make: preserving body & soul is not good enough; nurture your body and your soul. Peace arises where all paths meet; crossroads for weary travelers. Fevers can burn you up. Water can heal. She put the violin back in its case.
“Okay,” she said. “It’s worth a try.” She stood up off the couch and took off her clothes.
Dr. Zhu tied her up gently, kissing her as he did. Yes. He started at her ankles, and bound her up like a trussed bird. And then he helped her lie down on his soft purple couch and began his work. Where you find the water of life, is home.
Filed under adult children of alcoholics, birth, child abuse, child neglect, childhood, children of alcoholics, compassion, courage, daughter, daughters, death, development, dream, dreams, evolution, family, fear, forgiveness, grief, heart, human beings, identity, ignorance, karma, loss, love, mama, matricide, mea culpa, mortality, mother, mothers, mourning, museums, mysterious, personal responsibility, regret, relationships, sex, short stories, soul, transcendence, transitions, universe, war, woman, women
Kimberly Townsend Palmer
(originally published in Burning Word)
Doctor’s Report: Patient A, a short story
Patient A is a living museum of femininity, and serves as transitory evidence of extensive neo-geo-psycho-socio-eco-political movement. Designed and built in the second half of the twentieth century, she first gained philanthropic prominence with a cynical, witty, overeducated man eight years her senior, Charles F. She stayed faithful to Charles F. for six months, but the intriguing tales of his former romantic partners, then numbering in the several hundred, irretrievably seized her imagination. She left, and never looked back. She shops for new men the way other women shop for new shoes.
She invariably rejects both the too-easy conquest and the too-stubborn resistance. Every season countless men flock near to witness her fleeting, hormonally-induced states of passion, and observe for themselves her classic “XX” architecture.
If it seems that everything has already been said about Patient…
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Filed under acceptance, anthem, anthropology, appeals, art, art history, beauty, birth, blood, daughter, daughters, dream, dreams, eternal, eternity, evolution, faith, fiction, girls, history, identity, justice, karma, kindness, life, logic, loss, love, personal responsibility, prose poetry, relationships, sex, short stories, soul, spirit, spiritual, spirituality, transcendence, transitions, truth, universe, wish, woman, women, world