To the Women

June 30, 2020

I love women — and love or a woman can be
gold tossed upon a pillow. Woman is my
necessary gold. Women’s bodies are dusted
with love and gold. I want to hear women’s
voices; the sound of smoke rubbing velvet.
Give me a woman’s hair for my fine, thick
blanket in the night. Breasts soft as
eider-down beneath the head; arms gripping
stronger than a drug. Women taste of melted
honey moving sweet within the comb. Woman
to woman, I tell you — Women are the beginning
and the end of love, and love is more than all.

Frankie Hucklenbroich

This is for Maricruz Ladino and Olivia Tamayo.
This is for Consuelo and Magui and all those who declined
to give their last names, for those who spoke
and those who remained silent.

This is for Alejandra, who drives through red lights
and needs medication to sleep at night,
whose words at the sentencing trial translated to:

It’s like a wound that’s there
and it’s always becoming sore again
and it’s bleeding.

Her fingers are still stained with raspberry juice
but she ties sweaters around her waist
so when her mayordomo says Que nalgotas tienes
he can’t touch her beneath the layers.
Even when the heat scorches fruit on the vines
and her skin blisters with hives
she blankets her body,
ties a bandana around her head, face, neck like a niqab.
She covers her eyes with dark glasses.

Filling her bucket with fruit she tries to forget
that day in August, when the raspberry plants were so overgrown
that she couldn’t see down the row
and there, in the shady arbor of vines,
her mayordomo stood waiting for her.

When the police found his pants
streaked with her menstrual blood,
he claimed it was berry juice.

Did she know when she fled her mountain village
that she’d have to pay with more
than the bucket-weight of berries?

The grocery bins are filled with organic raspberries
that Alejandra can’t afford to buy.
When she sees them,
she looks away.

Lily Dayton

Then it happened.

At the touch of the purple juice the little broomstick gave a leap, a violent twist, a kick like the kick of a pony. Instinctively Mary clung to it, but it had twisted between her legs, and she fell.

But she never reached the ground.

For as she tipped forward, clinging along the handle of the little besom, with the head of twigs between her knees, the broomstick reared, shook itself violently, and then soared up towards the treetops with a swish like the rustle of a little wind.

And as it tore past the upper boughs, with Mary clinging for dear life to the handle, there was a scream and a crackle of twigs, and, with paws stretched like a flying squirrel, Tib flung himself out of the lime tree and on to the back of the besom. The broomstick jerked slightly under the impact, and then tore on, up, straight as a spear, towards the sagging clouds.

Mary Stewart
The Little Broomstick

Sex Writing –

June 30, 2020

The changing room in Macy’s. A rest area bathroom. The hood of a sports car.

If there’s a chance to get caught, I’ve probably fucked there.

Like sex, writing is both public and private. Like an exhibitionist, a writer gets off in private by exposing her work to the public…Writers are natural pleasure seekers, hedonists. I don’t know of anything more satisfying than laying on the hood of a car, staring into the black night sky, and watching cold breath float slow from my lips like I’m lying at the bottom of the ocean, like the stars are shimmers of sun from the top side of waves. I love the ashy, flat taste of Cabernet a whole bottle in. I love the thoughtless, cliff-wobbling moment before an orgasm better than the orgasm itself. But this is not enough. A writer must push her pleasure into risk, expose herself publicly to strangers with no knowledge of how she might be received, and become something that must be seen. The best kind of writing lives at this intersection…

There are many ways to expose yourself, if willing. I find pleasure in sharing my sexual exploits with friends, just as I do writing about the experiences. “I’m a very physically needy person,” I always start. Then, after some perverse account over coffee, I stir my cup and shrug as if I’ve merely recited the weather forecast. This makes me feel powerful for a moment: because the stories are unforgettable, I feel that I have become unforgettable. Sometimes, I bring my friends’ shocked reactions to the bedroom and share them with my partners, if for nothing else than to extend the pleasure of being seen…

One summer, I dated a married woman whose husband agreed to her seeing other women. He was a nurse who sometimes worked night shifts, which is when I would sleep over. The morning I met him, I woke up on his side of the bed, rolled on top of his wife, and woke her up by going down on her. She was in the middle of a loud orgasm when we heard her husband unlock the front door. She finished as he knocked on the bedroom door, then I wiped my mouth on their sheets and dressed quickly. I left their bedroom and held out my hand for his.

“Nice to meet you,” I wanted to say. “I just fucked your wife.” Instead, I shook his hand and sat next to him at the breakfast bar while his wife made us pancakes.

Emily Smith
Radical Vulnerability: The Writer as Exhibitionist

so worthy of admiration

June 30, 2020

Later on, Tadzio lay in the sand resting from his swim, a white towel drawn under his right shoulder, his head on his bare arm. Even when Aschenbach stopped staring at him to read a few pages of his book, he hardly ever forgot that the boy was lying there, that it only cost him a slight rightward turn of the head to glimpse that sight which was so worthy of admiration. He could almost imagine himself sitting there for the resting boy’s protection, busy with his own matters, yet ever watchful over the fine visual representation of humankind to his right, not far from him. And his heart was filled and moved by a kind of paternal pride, by the sentimental affection of the self-sacrificing creative mind that produces beauty toward someone who simply possesses it.

Thomas Mann
Death in Venice

I used to think that a short story collection was just an author’s previously written short stories cobbled together. And then, five years ago, I ran into Molly Antopol at AWP in Denver and asked her what she was working on. She said, “A short story collection, “and it was like the first time it occurred to me that a collection isn’t random. It’s planned. It has a theme and a feeling to it. So, I started looking at my stories differently. What was I really trying to talk about in the ones I’d written, and how did I want to continue to explore that going forward? I knew I was writing about the ways we get broken, and how we live with that, how we can remain whole, despite our brokenness.

When I started sending the collection out, I didn’t really have a sense of how to organize it. I was trying to think like an editor — ordering the stories so the book, as a whole, had its own narrative arc (“Man, if I end on this story the reader will be simultaneously devastated and fulfilled!”). The collection kept getting rejected, then Natalie Serber (author of Shout Her Lovely Name) told me to front load it with my absolutely strongest work. Make the editor fall in love immediately, and they’ll be more likely to either edit less successful pieces later on, or say, “Okay, just because the second-to-the-last story doesn’t work doesn’t mean this isn’t a great collection.” Which should seem obvious, right? But it was a revelation to me.

Liz Prato
Interview in The Rumpus 7th May 2015

We live in a world that is mostly predicated on a rational and scientific worldview, which effectively means that any phenomenon beyond the physically measurable is automatically deemed non-existent, including souls, gods, ghosts and human consciousness. While I would agree that we need to recover the psychological connection that once existed between ourselves and our environment – because to do otherwise is to render us all pointless automata in a material world which, by its own admission, has no direction or purpose – I would say that the problem could be more sharply defined if we put aside contentious terms like ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’, and instead opted for the less vague but just as scientifically problematic term ‘meaning’. If by coming to know more about the historical or mythological aspects of the places in which we live we make those places more meaningful, to us at least, then I suggest that this will lead to experiencing ourselves as more meaningful in our new, illuminated context.

The big difference between ‘meaning’ and ‘a spirit’ is that where meaning is concerned, we have to do all the necessary hard work in order to invest that place or that person or that object with meaning, whereas spirits just sort of turn up, don’t they? I believe that our world is gloriously haunted with meaning; that it’s we ourselves that are doing the haunting; and that we should be doing more of it, or doing it more strenuously.

In an era where supposedly hard material reality seems to shift more like vapour with every passing day, I think it becomes more evident that timeless and unchanging mythology is the actual solid bedrock on which our flimsy and temporary human realities are briefly erected. Whether you call it soul or spirit or meaning, it is the Real, as opposed to this spasming neo-conservative monetarist/materialist dream that we’re all required to share, and if we care about having a meaningful world in which to lead meaningful lives then we should all try harder to reinvest our environments with the meaning that belligerent materialism has sucked out of them.

Alan Moore
Interview with THE DAILY GRAIL, Thursday 27th April


June 29, 2020

Silence known by the light tap
Of rain, of after-rain
Shedding from leaves.
Night known by the star outside,
And dark clouds rimmed
By the less-dark sky.
The day known
By its uncoiling down through cells,
Slowly, into silence and night.
Body known by the press of cover
On limb, of limb on sheet,
On bed, on soil and rock and Earth.
None of it to last, not silence
Or night, or cloud or star,
Or day or body or planet;
Silence a ring I have made
Against cars and planes;
Night a contrivance
Against surrounding light.

Alix Greenwood


June 29, 2020

I think the sirens in The Odyssey sang The Odyssey,

for there is nothing more seductive, more terrible,

than the story of our own life, the one we do not

want to hear and will do anything to listen to.

Mary Ruefle

Alone together

June 29, 2020

Think of this – that the writer wrote alone, and the reader read alone, and they were alone with each other.

A.S. Byatt