Dear Magically Real Friends:  I wrote “Sock Legends” several years ago on an Easter morning that also coincided with Passover. It continues to be one my favorite stories, and I will keep on reprinting and reposting it, until it’s no longer needed.  Please read and share.  (appropriate for everyone)

Happy Easter!  Happy Passover!  Peace, Love, Good Will!

Once upon a time there was a little sock that lived in a sock drawer along with T-shirts and underpants in a blue dresser in somebody’s room. The sock had lost its twin long ago and, having no sibling to talk to, spent most of his time in the darkness of the drawer, listening to the other socks discuss the matters of the day.

A pressing issue among the sock population had become how the world was made and organized. The socks talked endlessly and sometimes so vehemently about this question that the drawer handles rattled and the T-shirts and underpants had to knock on the bottom and top of the drawer to ensure a little peace and quiet.

“Those socks need to learn how to get along,“ said the T-shirts to each other.

“Those socks certainly entertain high-falutin’ ideas,” observed the underpants.

“That’s because there are so many of them,” said the long johns, who had gotten thrown in the underpants drawer by mistake.

“And because they have to split apart to get washed and then get put back together, they get all manners of crazy ideas. It’s that constant movement or partition and reunification that makes them a bit unhinged.”

“Well, don’t you know everything?” said an aggravated pair of Hanes all-cotton. He was very annoyed that the long johns were pressing in on him, making doing what he liked to do best—spread out, letting his fibers breathe—difficult.

But it was certainly true that the socks argued a great deal about credos and creeds.

One corner of the drawer favored the theory of a One Sock Above All Others, who created sockdom, underpantsdom, and T-shirtdom. The OSAAO had decided that the socks were the chosen garments, perhaps because of their duality, and gave them special laws of conduct. Thus it was believed, according to this segment of the sock population, that the original socks had been created in a sort of divine factory by the OSAAO. The first socks were then forced to leave and travel—just how, no one knew—to the sock drawer itself.

The little sock listened to the stories of wandering and exile, of the attempt to create order out of the chaos of a drawer, and of the need for laws: All knee-highs together at the front; all crew socks at the back and pastels in the middle.

Orphaned socks, like our little sock here, were to be placed near the front but not quite, so they could wait and hope for the coming of their long-lost twin. Only then could they go out into the world like the other socks, who did (it must be admitted) exit the drawer from time to time.

Another group of socks fervently disagreed. These were the socks that lived at the opposite corner of the drawer. They maintained that yes, of course there was an Original Sock Creator, but there had been, and would be again, a Son of Sock, who taught that love was more important than rules and that believing was more important than doing. These socks got tangled up with each other and often ended up in a giggly pile that kept on saying how much they loved each other. Sometimes they even rearranged themselves into nonmatching pairs, and out they went in the world and sometimes did not, sad to say, come back at all.

These two groups argued a lot about the law versus emotion, about duty versus inspiration, and, often, the little sock did not understand what in the world they were talking about. Why did one side get so angry? (The chosen sock group.) And why did the other group go from sudden laughter to rage and then to abject tears when anyone disagreed? (The Son of Sock contingent.)

That’s when the third group showed up. The third sock consortium consisted primarily of tightly woven business socks. Adult-looking, they could be beige, argyle, black, brown, or blue, but rarely white, and almost never pastel. They congregated at the very front of the drawer, pushing hard against those who had come before, and they insisted—loudly—that they needed to be stationed there so as to be ready to make the Great Sock Journey. All socks must travel, the new arrivals said, to the place where the famous Sock Soothsayer received his written instructions, dictated directly from the Sock Maker Himself.

A lot of socks didn’t like these newcomers. The new business socks were quite aggressive, and they told the other socks they were stupid if they didn’t agree with them and that they were going to end up in the trash if they didn’t behave. On the other hand, they told wonderful jokes and were big huggers. If they liked you, they would say “SOCK!” and embrace you. After that they were always your friends.

The little sock didn’t know what to think. He had a feeling that believing was important, and he missed his long-lost twin, whom, at this point, he could barely remember. He decided, despite his doubts, to go on the Great Sock Journey, and when the Newcomers jumped into the laundry basket, he hid himself underneath a big argyle sock and jumped too.

Oh, dear! What a mistake, thought the little sock as he found himself immersed in freezing cold water and not in the usual hot of distant memory.

“That’s to protect our colors, foolish little one,” said Argyle haughtily. The little sock got thrown around in the agitating cold water. But along the way he met a kind T-shirt who swept him up in his shoulder.

“Just hang on there, young fella,” said the T-shirt. “I’ll protect you from the worst of the buffeting. Then we go into the driving desert, and we can talk as we spin around.”

And hardly had he spoken when they whirled madly in violent circles and then got tossed into a dry and hot enclosure.

This is like the original Sock Journey some of my people talked about, thought the little sock, and so he spoke to the T-shirt as they settled into a comfortable, warm spin.

“Oh ho,” chortled the T-shirt when he heard about the various sock disputes. “So this is what you all are caterwauling about in that overcrowded drawer of yours.” The T-shirt unfolded its neck so as to better enjoy the warm drying air.

“The difficulty with your view is that it places socks at the veritable center of the universe,” said the T-shirt, extending his arms and allowing the little sock to rest comfortably against the belly of the shirt.

“But it excludes everyone else. What of T-shirts? What of underpants?”

“Gosh,” said the little sock. “I never thought of that.”

The little sock was beginning to feel wonderfully dry, and as he nestled in the smooth cotton of the shirt, he asked his older acquaintance to share some other ways of believing.

The T-shirt—who had clearly spent much time in the great world outside—happily obliged.

“There are views of the universe that there were many makers, not just one, and many helpers, not just a son. Some say there was no maker at all and that the world as we know it—filled with drawers and textiles and water and heat—just happened. A kind of wonderful chance.”

That possibility frightened the little sock a bit. Could there really be no plan at all? He shared his fear with his new friend.

“So, what do I do now?” asked the little sock.

“I think,” said the T-shirt, “you just try to live well, behave kindly to others, and be happy.”

“And my twin?” asked the little sock.

“There, you have a real problem,” said the T-shirt, “and you may indeed decide that a quest beyond the limits of the laundry will be necessary. For that you will need to find a foot, and the foot will take you where you need to go.”

The air grew still. The little sock felt himself pulled out of the space. As he called good-bye the T-shirt called cheerily after him.

“Go forth, young sock.”

The little sock felt himself slipped around something large and fleshy, and he saw himself covering wriggling, wormlike monsters. The monsters waved to him, and he felt himself encasing a being larger than himself but still small.

Is this the Sock Maker? he thought, but no. And, yet, imagine the little sock’s delight when he heard a thunderous voice roar. “Mommy, here’s my missing sock!”

As the little sock looked sideways, he saw his long-lost twin covering a similar set of five monsters.

His twin smiled brightly as, above their heads, the old T-shirt stretched tight across a huge, flat expanse.

“Now, the adventure really begins,” the T-shirt shouted merrily.

And the three sallied forth, searching for their truths.

The summer of Pocahontas

 

The summer the movie Pocahontas came out, a lawyer-man’s white female law partner went crazy after seeing the film at the Cineplex in a wealthy suburb in Northern California.

In an unrelated incident, a white woman aborted the fetus she carried. While another white woman (who also worked at the lawyer-man’s law firm) protested at the abortion clinic near the movie theater where the woman-partner went mad.

When his partner flipped her lid, the also white lawyer-man started staying late at the office, talking on a listerserv to his orthodox Jewish man friends.

What is the kabbalah? he said.

The distant men whispered back in sparkling green letters: Secrets.

Sacred secrets that reveal the shekinah – the divine feminine presence.

So the lawyer-man phoned the asylum where the female partner lay babbling about Indians and whites, and the absolute necessity of miscegenation.

Tell me the secret he said. But she asked only for directions to the nearest reservation.

That was the summer when the pipes of 7 houses in the same cul de sac of the suburb just mentioned burst at the very same moment.

That same summer the woman in the insane asylum saw John Smith come in through the window. She jumped out to safety. Never to be seen again.

In a possibly related incident the woman, who’d had the abortion went to see Pocahontas at the Cineplex to relieve her guilt. In line, she met a boy with long black hair and they sat side by side as he slid his hands up her skirt right there at the movie theater – with so many suburban children asking in whispers where the Indians had gone–

I am an explorer, she whispered in the darkness. And you are my desperate discovery.

I am part Cherokee, he said.

Although mostly, I am German.

Outside the theater, the third woman picketed with a sign she could not read. At his law firm, the lawyer man typed more green queries.

Meanwhile in a certainly related incident, the sprinklers in his empty house went off, trying and failing to extinguish the fire that had finally grown within him at the office, as he typed and typed waiting for the answers which would heal the sick, and restore the living, and which would bring back all the lost tribes from their most secret places.

 

Dear Friends –

I tried and tried to think about stories and poems today, but all I can think about is Game of Thrones.

“Don’t fight it,” said a former student. “Write about it.”

Sometimes if you’re a writer you just have to go with the flow. Accept your obsession, and let it own you. For a while at least.

So — here are 4 pieces in honor of Game of Thrones, paired with some of the breathtaking fan art on the internet devoted to these books and the tv series.

Please enjoy. Write your own poem or story, craft your own picture, form a nice wax sculptured severed head, or knit a gold cloak if the spirit moves you.

But the main thing: use what moves you.

 

4 poems for The Game of Thrones

1.

I like to hurt things

that is to say people

or rather animals–

a category, which includes

people.

pain in others creates

a kind of order and frankly

this place is so disorganized

and I like things neat. I like the way

pain simplifies.

these wriggling creatures

flies, boys, girls, knights

they get quiet under pain

and those heads on spikes

they’re the quietest of all

see how precisely they sit

on top of my dead dad’s parapets.

 

2.

men like me don’t

last long. we enact the

tragedy of the world of men –

we who are the perfect exemplars are

the ones who die

first: the combat experts, the steel

wielders, the teachers

of the death-dance. we’re brave

but also doomed. and doom is glamorous

if you aren’t living under its sigil.

or dying under it, which

is what I

do.

 

3.

I am the most mundane

of monsters: the ugly

woman, the tall woman, the

ungainly woman, with skills

that no man wants. Except for

him. But the kill-skill was

all he saw. And somehow that

made things

worse.

 

4.

I almost saw my father

die –

another man blocked

the view, but it didn’t

matter. from then on all

I saw was death death

was all I wanted. not mine

of course, though I don’t

think much

about being killed, only

about killing and learning

to use my body and my will

to get revenge. I am still

small, but my knife list grows now it’s a

sword list an axe list and someday the list

will be as long as 1000 arrows

strung together into hangman’s rope

and everyone I hate will hang

from it then

afterwards — I don’t

know –

if I can stop

because if I ever do

I will have to learn to be

afraid and that’s what

really

scares me.

 

Dear friends — this is a snippet of a possible memoir called My Romanovs.  Appropriate for all ages.

 

Thanksgiving chez les Rogers

Mr. and Mrs. Rogers were very wealthy New Yorkers who were friends with my Romanovs, that is to say — my grandfather Vladimir and my grandmother Stephanya. Mr. Rogers was tall and kindly and laid back in that way very rich people from old, well to do families are; since they don’t have to prove anything to anybody they can afford to be extremely kind and benevolent – which he always was. Mrs. Rogers, on the other hand, was an absolutely terrifying woman in a wheelchair who wore big jewelry and turbans. She chain-smoked and spoke in a very deep loud voice. She had been crippled by polio and my grandfather, who was a dress designer, made all her dresses specially, so they would be backless or have a slit up the back so she could very easily to go the bathroom – which if you think about it makes a lot of sense.

My grandparents went over there all the time – there being a penthouse in a hotel on 5th Avenue. They always spent Thanksgiving with the Rogers, which meant that as soon as I was old enough to sit at a fancy dinner table with grownups, my parents and I went there too. You had to get fantastically dressed up, and I generally wore a gorgeous dress that my grandfather made me. The fancy clothes part was sort of fun, but the formality got dull fast, the food was only ok, and there was no one my own age to talk to.

But by far the worst part of these hotel Thanksgiving dinners was the dessert. Thanksgiving was punctuated by the arrival of a glass dish filled with something that looked like ice cream, covered in a bright green sauce. I learned later that this green junk was crème de menthe, and that the ice-cream stuff was lemon sorbet. What a combination.

Every year, I dreaded that Thanksgiving dinner, knowing that the inedible dessert would appear. This was still the era of the clean plate club and I was going to have to dig my way through that ghastly thing. My mother hated it too, and so did my grandmother because they hated anything with alcohol in it, but it never occurred to either of them to say no I don’t want any, thank you. We all three sat there, glaring at the evil anti-treat.

After the travail of the Thanksgiving dinner, we would go out of the hotel dining room and into the Rogers’ penthouse apartment, which had a large garden and you could walk out and be among trees and bushes on top of the city. That part was amazing.DSCN2235

And my family looked so nice. My mother wore black satin, and pale sapphires, and pearls, and my grandmother wore red or orange or something earthy and bright. My mother and my grandmother had matching aquamarine rings, and I loved holding both their hands, and feeling us joined together by the magical stones. My father wore an expensive Brooks Brothers suit, and while my grandfather wore black he always had on a shiny striped ascot with a giant pearl stuck through it. He also sported a huge turquoise ring that he’d gotten in New Mexico. Sometimes I see pictures of Salvador Dali, and there’s something in the maniacal humor of that artist that reminds me of my grandfather.

I didn’t understand the talking at the party but I liked being with my grandparents, whom everyone knew and admired, and if there was someone foreign at the gathering, my grandmother could speak with them, because she knew many languages, and was never afraid to speak them.

Mrs. Rogers loved my grandfather and depended on him for many things. She would telephone him to come to the penthouse and help her with some last minute arrangement: organize the flower arrangements, or sort out who would sit where and what they should all talk about.

Once in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner, I saw my grandfather squinting disapprovingly at our hostess. He got up and stood behind Mrs. Rogers at the head of the table. She was about to light her cigarette, when he grabbed her turban and forced it sideways on her head, and then grasped her shoulders, and pulled her shoulders down, and yanked her dress sleeves up and out.

I was sure she would yell at him with her deep smoky voice. Instead she looked at him, as he told her “It was all wrong but now, I’ve fixed it.”

“Thank you, Prince,” she said and turned to me.

“Your grandfather is a genius, little Stephanie,” she said. “Did you know that?”

“Yes,” I said. “And by the way, I don’t care for any crème de menthe dessert.”

My mother looked at me.

“My mother and grandmother don’t want any either,” I explained. “They are teetotalers.”

I’ve never tasted crème de menthe since.

NoThanks_thumb

Rockers and Swings: days and nights

The chairs I grew up on, did not move. Well, they did sometimes by accident. You scraped the chairs over a wooden floor or got them caught on a woolen rug, or you tipped them back and someone yelled at you. Not me. I don’t remember tipping my chair, but someone did — a friend, a classmate —  and another someone yelled. Don’t tip your chair!

But out west in Ballard where my grandmother and her sister lived, the chairs moved.  The first chair was my aunt’s rocking chair that sat in her tiny pink house. Her small perfect garden abutted my grandmother’s much larger, more ostentatiously tended one. I would go through the gate separating the two sisters and their properties – the idea of crossing from one garden to another fascinated me. And the gate wasn’t even locked. You lifted the latch and suddenly you were in another place altogether. I could come and go anytime of day — from sister to sister, from rose to rose. My grandmother’s big lawn, and my aunt’s diminutive one — her sitting on a step in her shorts getting ready to weed. Then into her little fairy-tale house, and there was the rocking chair. I sat in it and visited with her.

courtesy Etsy

courtesy Etsy

I visited every day.The rocking chair was wood, plain, and yet wonderfully comfortable and best of all it moved — it was supposed to tip.  One time I travelled across the entire living room. “You’re gonna rock yourself right out of here!”  my aunt observed smiling. She had a disease that froze half her face and her smile was lopsided as a result, but it always was funny and warm — always wonderful.  We moved the chair back to its place, and I started up all over again.

“You’re gonna rock right out of here!”  All this before rock and roll, although I guess – looking back this rocking must have been coeval with Elvis.

The other chair that moved was my grandmother’s swing. It was not a plank of wood that hung from chains. It was like a sofa or a seat from one of those really big old cars. It was aqua and draped with a plastic sheet when not in use in the garage. When we came to visit the “conversation about the swing” was had. “Do you want to bring out the swing?”, my grandmother said and there was something magisterial about the question.  And then my father echoed her, saying, “shall we bring out the swing?”  They seemed to have some secret signal — like parents and children do — and so my father pulled it out, took of the plastic sheet, and the smell abated and we sat on it.  Without ever answering the question.

We sat outside at night.  This was also an amazing thing — as amazing in its way as the gate that led between the gardens. Sitting outside at night, was something I never did.  None did it except for vagrants or frightening people, and anyway where would one sit in the city?  If you went outside you did it for walking someplace during the daytime, for walking your dog, or going to the dentist, and perhaps you’d sit on a park bench. As a pause between activities.

But this sitting outside in your yard in the dark was something.  The smell of evening. The way summer evenings in the west get cold but not buggy.  The silence of night. The swing made a gently creaking noise. You could hear crickets. You could see stars.

Dear friends — a wonderful Threadless t-shirt as well as a cake pan based on the t-shirt inspired this tiny tale. 

Waiting for the Ice Cream Truck

The children, and even the oldest of the senior citizens are waiting for the ice cream truck. They are waiting on their porches of boredom, their patios of  — well, despair is putting it too strongly, so let’s call them patios of despondency which is fancier and somehow more gentle. Some porches and patios are nice and fancy and some are worn down, cracking or nonexistent, but the fact of the matter is that through out SoCal it’s hot as blazes and even the kids with the expensive video games are too hot to play them. So all there is to do today through the southern half of the state to wait for is the ice-cream person, who is generally but not always a man, and who is also generally not from around here, who generally comes to the truck as his or her business and who is gifted for some reason with the dispensing of sweets.

Yes, they wait for him.  In the hot boiling summer, the dry baked summer, which isn’t summer at all but rather spring, but this is what happens with global warming.  You get summer when you don’t want it, and floods and ice when you do.

Where is the ice-cream man?

He isn’t coming.  Here’s why.

A giant walrus has flown in from Russia or Tasmania – no wait – not Tasmania or the arctic circle or the north pole. I’m not sure where the giant walrus came from, but well, here he (or she) is.  Big and grey like a whale only with tusks he lies on the big street often (but not always) called Main Street, and the ice cream truck is blocked entirely!

Mystery solved. Yet the problem remains.

The ice-cream truck technician or driver or just person, gets out, resplendent in white, although he sells many flavor of of ice cream and consequently many colors too (and therefore should have a more exciting outfit in terms of hues).

The ice-cream man He pushes and pushes against the behemoth, who looks down at him kindly.  Not budging.

The children wait on their patios of boredom, their porches of nothing but stick ball and television, but eventually they realize through ice-cream empathy (aka twitter), that they will have to walk and bike and skateboard and scooter to the main street.

They do, and the old folks tag along with walkers and motorized chairs, and if they can’t walk they place their order with the children, because it’s clear that children are our future and we should let them lead the ice-cream way.

And there is our luscious surprise.  The truck filled with ice-cream and the big friend lying on the street, as big as a roller coaster. The kids and old folks line up and the man in the truck dispenses carefully, and the kids who are waiting climb up the big walrus and slide down.  How wonderful. Something’s finally happening. But ice-cream is not excluded.

“Why did you come here?” a grandmother asks the walrus.

“I was lonely,” the giant walrus said. “I wanted to be with people. And ice-cream brings people together.”

“Ah,” says the grandmother, leaning against the walrus’ giant side with her orange popsicle – the kind that makes your tongue orange. ”That’s why I came too.”

Many thanks to Kelly Davio for inviting me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour!  Kelly is the author of the poetry collection Burn This House (Red Hen Press), and she has a forthcoming novel in poems Jacob Wrestling, that will launch in Spring 2015 with Pink Fish Press. She is a former poetry editor for the Los Angeles Review, and is currently Poetry Editor of the brand new Tahoma Review, a beautiful literary magazine that actually pays authors!

You can read Kelly’s responses to the Writing Process questions here. I answer the same questions below:

1. What am I working on?

courtesy ann brantingham

courtesy ann brantingham

I am proofing the formatted manuscript of my poetry collection How Formal? (forthcoming with Spout Hill Press), and I am working on the continuation of the story that I began in my novel, The Puppet Turners of Narrow Interior.  So far the new novel has magical chamomile tea, time travel, gypsies, Anabaptists, and 17th Century Montpellier in it. Also grad school – one of my recurring obsessions. To keep things rolling, I have given myself the impossible assignment of writing a reboot of the entire Grimm Brothers Fairy Tale Collection. This project is a trick to make me write and it’s working because the very idea of it scares me so much, that I write other stories just so I can avoid this enormous assignment. And I’m always writing poems. I make  – on average — 1-2 a week.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I’m something of a genre outlaw. When I work with traditional formal requirements, I like to undermine and then demolish them. How Formal? plays with that dynamic. The collection starts with familiar, classical poetic forms: sestinas, sonnets, couplets, haiku. But I choose subject matter that puts stresses on these forms (going bankrupt, learning Hebrew, masturbation, academia) and I like the disruption that occurs when — for example — a beat up Chrysler enters the world of an elegant, “fancy” traditional poem. The work in each section of my collection becomes increasingly distorted formally – as the poems move from free verse to the prose poem, and then to wacky translations and adaptations of biblical literature and other famous poets (Plath, Shakespeare, cummings).  But I always aim to keep my work understandable. I don’t believe that the avant-garde has to be something scary or overly cerebral.  On the contrary – the avant-garde is all about FUN.

3. Why do I write what I do?

When I was 4, I played “Romeo and Juliet” with a rubber prince doll and a Madame Alexander doll (I think it might have been Queen Elizabeth). I had understood from a cartoon I had seen that R and J talk to each other from a balcony. I thought this was a ridiculous way to conduct a romance. So, I threw my doll playing Romeo out the window of my NYC apartment and then I threw the Juliet out too. This way they could have an intelligent conversation, and then run away and get married.  I was very pleased with this brilliant idea, until my mother noticed the dolls on the window ledge of my grandfather’s workroom. He owned our building, and sewed dresses in the basement. Believe it or not, my eagle-eyed mother saw the dolls lying on the ledge in the rain at night! Oh — was I in trouble! But I’ll never forget the feeling of changing that old story, making it better, freer, and filled with possibility. And those dolls sailing out the window towards their destiny…Glorious. That’s the feeling I go for when I write. That feeling of a new story. Change. Freedom.

4. How does my writing process work?

I have a hate-love relationship with journaling. I go through a periodic month of rebellion, because I detest getting up early in the morning and sitting down and writing before I’ve had coffee.  And then, I realize that I have to, because I’m not writing anything and feel stuck. So I start again. I type sometimes in a private online journal, but lately I’ve reverted to writing in a small black notebook (Leuchtturm 1917′s preferably because they are better sized than moleskines [and paginated!]). Lately I’m using a pencil because pencils remind me of being a little kid and I’m less judgmental about what I write. Sometimes I get an idea when I journal and sometimes I don’t, but at least I’ve started. The poet Marvin Bell says that starting is the main thing, and I would completely agree with that. As for revising – ugh. I do it, but I hate that too. Until I see how much better the work just got.

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Next week the Writing Process Blog Tour continues to branch out next week with two (possibly three) amazing story-tellers from Washington State and Florida:

Claire Gebben.  Claire was born and raised on the southeast side of Cleveland in Moreland Hills, Ohio, and penciled her first novel at age ten, 101 pages on blue-lined notebook paper. Claire’s writing has appeared in Shark ReefThe Speculative EdgeSoundings ReviewThe Fine Line, andColumbiaKIDS e-zine.  Her first novel, The Last of the Blacksmiths appeared in February 2014 with Coffeetown Press.

Kaye Linden is an Aussie with an MFA in fiction from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. She served as short fiction editor and lead editor with the Bacopa Literary Review, has worked as a teacher of short fiction at Santa Fe College. She is currently assistant editor for Soundings Review and medical editor for “epresent learning lecture reviews.”  Kaye’s first short story collection Tales from Ma’s Watering Hole is available where all books are sold.  She is completing her second short story collection “She Wears Hot Pink Jeans,” which you can sample at her blog

A story for those of us, who prefer standard time…

Once upon a time there was an hour. The hour was born – of course – in an hour glass and was raised by its loving parents Month and Week, as well as by siblings and relatives connected to greater and lesser time units. It grew up in a hot country where there seemed to be lots of time. The hour laughed and played with hula-hoops and soap bubbles. The hour was in love with all things circular, spiral, and infinite.  Slinkies, yo-yos and basketballs, balloons. pizzas, round swimming pools.

But childhood cannot last forever.

One day the hour learned the terrible truth: that one day it would be sacrificed – cut out, deleted, made not to exist – so that time could appear to those 2 foot creatures locked into time as having a kind of coherence. A comforting regularity that involved – oddly – light.

“You’ll be reborn, of course,” Grandfather Epoch told the hour. “And there will be a gigantic birthday party for you. It will be grand. Rowboats and canoes and diving boards will be stashed away, and the lanterns will come out. The grinning pumpkin orbs, and the rounded turkey, and the holiday ornaments of red and green.”

But the hour had a practical question.

“Will dying hurt?” the little hour asked.

“Yes,” said the grandfather. “Dying always hurts.”

“And being reborn?” the hour turned to Grandmother Era who was knitting a very long scarf with arthritic yet powerful fingers.

“What doesn’t hurt?” Grandmother Era said philosophically. “It all hurts but it all gets better. It all heals. And then it hurts again.”

“What’s the answer to this suffering?” said the hour, feeling quite afraid and desperate. It looked at the hoola-hoops and the half-eaten pizza. It could hear the two-footers getting ready with their diving boards and kayaks, excited about the light that the hour’s death would bring.

“Think small and not big,” said Era. “Think about the now,” said Grandfather Epoch. “Focus on being present.”

Just then the hour died, as the rain fell  – though, not as much as was desired in this hot country where the hour lived.

Most of the two-footers went on with their activities, getting out all manner of equipment. Only a few eccentric ones missed the deceased hour, and thought of it, wished it well, and hoped for its return.

They waited and waited – these odd few ones. They painted and sang and made sculptures and photographs. And dances too. Hoping for the lost hour.

And finally, the air grew crisper and the pumpkin lanterns were carved. At last – the hour was reborn.

The hour felt wounded by its death and it knew that another death was coming. That it would always die.  But the hour couldn’t dwell on such things – it was time for the birthday party!

At the hour’s birthday party, Grandma Era presented the hour with the scarf – a huge circle of colors. The hour said thank you, blew out the birthday candles and went for a walk. The time units all came too: minutes and seconds walked – as best they could — with the hour, as Era and Epoch stretched their very long legs. Eventually the entire family stopped and listened to the welcome sound of winter rain. They all commented on how good it was that at least there was more night. And soon – in the mountains snow. The hour and its family thought and took pleasure in thinking about each snow flake. How each is a momentary coldness – an art-work — both ephemeral and eternal – of exquisitely structured ice crystals, always already in the process of change.

Dear Friends of the Magical, the Surprising, the Weird and the Real:

Over here at Magically Real HQ, we keep an eye out for the thing that sparks us — the thing that makes us want to think, write, talk, and make work. Also teach. Also speak out when necessary. Also do laundry. We are always looking for the thing that makes us feel more alive by saying/showing/doing something where we have what philosopher Hans Gadamer calls the spark of recognition — the “this is you!” moment. Roland Barthes, queer post-structuralist would call it more simply the “pleasure of the text.”

This morning I had that experience. Thanks to a brilliant mutual friend, I follow the twitter feed of Porpentine — who has been mentioned on this blog before. Porpentine makes avantgarde videogames. She’s a genius.

Her latest offering is a sort of demonic poem-game about high-school girls, called LOVE IS ZERO.

You can read about it here.

And you can play it here.

How do I feel after playing it? I feel great right now because something awful has been named. Something that circulates in the relationships between women and girls, between girls and girls, between generations of women, between women at work, women at the grocery store, and women in families and conventions and schools. When the truth is named, we get to feel less burdened by it. We get to ask questions about it. And whatever we decide  – the ickiness has less power because it is out there. On the screen.

When the truthy is stretched out by magic, surrealism, grotesquerie and non-realistic cartoonery, we get at it more closely. It can hit us in a way that a news report can’t. Porpentine’s “game” asks us to think about what it is that are we really playing at.

Enjoy.

Magically Real Management

Bus Stop

A liminal space. Wait, that’s too fancy. Ok, a place to wait for the bus. But that’s not it entirely. See, it’s a place between destinations where things can happen. Because you AREN’T for once in the process of going; you’re waiting to go, and so you’re not resting exactly with your feet up in the fancy hotel room that you got in this Pacific Northwest city because you dilly-dallied about registering for a writing conference until it was too late to get into the cheap hotels. Although let’s face it, you despise cheap hotels, and love fancy ones.

Anyway, you’re at the bus stop and not exactly going and not exactly there, which is what I mean by “liminal” but you’re waiting for the bus, and the best part is you’re waiting with her.

She and you are really just recently becoming friends, and there’s that tension — no, not tension tentativeness, I guess I want to say — there’s a certain hesitance about how much to share and how much to say and how to say it because you and she are pretty different, not just in terms of worldview but in terms of age and outlook and experience and sex. But you like her so much, the way you like people who are different in ways that matter, different in ways that are electric and interesting rather than intimidating and/depressing. A person with whom you can feel yourself becoming different and you wonder who that different person is. Will be. Can be. Yeah. Those friends are magic. So you stand and wait with her because she’s going to stay with friends and not at a fancy hotel.

A bus comes but it’s not hers.

You talk about how tired you both are. You talk about being introverts who pretend to be extroverts. You talk about the layers of past selves (her term). And then somehow the conversation runs down. Something intimate has been shared, and now you’re both even tireder.

Two more buses come. Nope. Neither are for her.

“You don’t have to wait any more,” she tells you.

But what she doesn’t know because you don’t think to tell her because you have forgotten til now — til this act of writing– is:

How much you love waiting with women at bus stops. How there’s a whole history of it — a genealogy (history of family ) in waiting at bus stops. How you waited with your mother for the 3rd avenue and Madison Avenue buses, and she put you on a bus or you put her on, and you’d both wave until the bus slithered away into the darkness. How you waved at friends from high school and friends from college on buses. How your pairs of hands exchanged energies — a farewell that was also an arrival vibrating through the glass.

She says “really you don’t have to wait,” and you decide to get funny. You say “‘l”ll text our friend J and pretend you aren’t even here,” and she laughs just a little bit and you take out the phone, and it helps, because now she can be quiet and take a break from this conversation. You turn back to her and you talk about the weather and her hat. “I like it — did you make it?” “God no.” The hat is purple. It suits her. The bus comes, and you embrace. “I love you,” you both say, and it’s suddenly super-true. She gets on. You start to turn away, turn back. You watch her get on the bus, and you start waving. She doesn’t see you, but it feels so good to do it, you keep on despite the bemused look of hipsters and youthful onlookers. You watch her sit down and put her head down — alone at last, she’s thinking perhaps. You wave at her as the bus slithers away into darkness.

Then you walk down the street to meet your friend J — another woman who is so different from either of you and her friend D, who is different in a different way. You walk towards them — the cold slap of pavement under your feet. Buses pass. You walk. You think about departures. Arrivals. And all the infinitesimal movements that matter from within what looks like — but isn’t just — liminal space.

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