Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Last Day In Barcelona

Bree saw him standing near the Sagrada Familia metro station at Carrer de Mallorca. When the Blackberry buzzed thirty minutes ago, she was at the top of the sacred church memorializing the Excelsis and Hosanna inscriptions on the towers as vacation photos. Rafael said he would call her after he got off duty from behind the hotel desk - and he did. He said he would meet her at the metro station - and he did. Bree was not used to a man who followed through on his promises.

A knot formed in her stomach at the sight of Rafael’s gentle smile. He looked different in casual clothes and without his glasses - unsettled and unsure, as if taking off the uniform made him more vulnerable. Bree had come to expect his calm, confident demeanor every morning, his patience as the Rosetta Stone Spanish stumbled out of her mouth, his daily assurances that she would have a great time in each part of the city she explored. Without the glasses, Bree could see the discontent dwelling behind his eyes. It must have been what prompted him to see the States by riding cross-country on a Greyhound bus. Bree recognized her longing in Rafael’s eyes. It was the same feeling - the yearning for something more than ‘just enough’ - that compelled her to dust off her passport and fly to a place she had only seen in a Woody Allen movie.

Rafael gave her his helmet and Bree climbed on the back of his motorcycle. She wished she had worn a more practical dress, one she did not have to keep hiking up past her knees for fear of getting caught on some wayward piece of metal. They made their way through the streets of the city, whizzing past sights more familiar to her after nine days. He headed southeast toward Montjuïc, where she had visited on her second day. The guidebooks and tourist websites advised her to take the funicular to the top for the best views of the city, but from that vantage point, a familiar wave of isolation overcame her. She decided to experience the rest of the city hands on, absorb its energy through her pores.

Bree clung to Rafael tighter as they spiraled up to the top. He took her by the hand and pointed out the Olympic Village, Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia, all the places he knew she had visited. He nuzzled his nose against her neck, cheek and earlobe in a slow, winding pattern, touching all the soft places she had forgotten existed within her. She wanted to hold on to this moment longer than she knew it would last. It should have been enough for her to see his smile everyday, watch his fingers steady restless glasses on his face. But of course, Bree wanted more. She wanted to free him from the hotel desk he had chained himself behind, from the lives they both had settled for.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Poems from the Durham Herald News: Saturday, June 20, 2009

How to Make Sense

Our ability to feel on a deep level
Is the only real skill we need.
To figure out meaning,
Go into it as a clean slate;
Relate to others and the world at large.
The world is wondrous and marvelous;
Not to have expectations is undiscovered land.
The greatest pleasure is being taken
Where we have never been before.
In terra incognita, I have felt all parts of myself;
In this complex world, I have felt whole.

From the article, "Crowds Find Varied Meanings in ADF's Smooth Moves " - Interview with ADF Critic-in-Residence, Suzanne Carbonneau (front page, below the fold)

Word of Mouth

People who write encourage people
To read and talk to other people
And see what else they've written.

From the article, "Can You Believe What you Read on the Web?" Parade Magazine section.

Unused Advice

Show up now
Give control to others
Get rid of them
Take back control
Don't fall
Develop simplified rules
Just forget it
Test high
No mixing with trash

From the article, "Keep Drugs Out of the Water Supply", Parade Magazine section

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Writing Prompt: Contagious

I saw their love blossom
In nervous smiles and lingering conversations.
They hurdled over old hurts and impossibilities
Then landed in wedded bliss.
Their daring act made even a cynic like me
Cheer them on, and wonder,
If just by witnessing their triumph
It could happen to me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Poems from the Durham Herald News: Saturday, June 13, 2009

Our Love Is...

Drama on many stages and many acts
Just above the protected zone.
To move the boundary requires change
In both parts at the same time;
We are waiting for a much different result.

From the article, "Conservationists May Get Boost in Lake Boundary Fight," by Jim Wise (front page, below the fold).

A Cancerous Growth Was Removed

A tumor, when cornered, gets aggressive -
Breeding, rebuilding the species.
The greatest threat has been trapped and sterilized,
Which is what we want to happen.

From the article, "Surgery Removes Tumor in One of Museum's Prize Wolves," by Mark Schultz (3A)

A Late Historian's Life...

...heavy with challenge
...murmurs and head nods
...angry happy
...happy angry
...jammed overflow
...a celebration
...many gifts, friends & professional colleagues of orchids
...home in Durham
...symbol of goodness -

From the article, "Packed Crowd Honors John Hope Franklin," by Eric Ferreri (4A)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Book Review: The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar was written by Sylvia Plath and published under a pseudonym in 1963, a month before she committed suicide. I read the paperback version published by Bantam Books in 1972, the year of my birth. The front cover tag line sensationalizes what the book is about, "The heartbreaking story of a talented young woman who descends into madness", but the quote from the New York Times book review printed on the back cover is much more matter-of-fact, "The Bell Jar is a novel about the events of Sylvia Plath's twentieth year; about how she tried to die, and how they stuck her together with glue."

I heard about The Bell Jar in high school or in my early college years, talked about like a rumor in the girls' locker room. I got the impression it was good to admire the writing, but not the writer. Plath wrote things about which most young women could relate, but you didn't want to relate too much to her writing - as if doing so would damn you to the same suicidal fate. I found the book at a used book sale last March (before the book diet). For 16 months the book sat in the closet of the bedroom I hope to one day turn into my study. Every once in a while I'd look in on it - and the other 6 or 7 books I bought that day - promising to lay my eyes on the pages inside. A writer friend suggested I read Sylvia Plath poems for inspiration, but I put it off. Then I took one of those infamous Facebook quizzes "Who Is Your Inner Crazy Bitch?" and voilá she turned out to be Sylvia Plath. Of course, this revelation was what prompted me to finally pick the book up off the floor.

What I absolutely love about this book and Plath's writing is her description of emotions in a way that is accessible intellectually, visually, tangibly, as well as emotionally. The reader follows Esther Greenwood's slow and steady descent into the depths of depression, but her feelings and thoughts seem not much different from feelings and thoughts of anyone else, including my own. Here are a few to illustrate:

Photo shoot during Esther's summer internship at the magazine:
"I didn't want my picture taken because I was going to cry. I didn't know why I was going to cry, but I knew if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my eyes and the sobs would fly out of my throat and I'd cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full."

Esther's first visit to her first psychiatrist, the "perfect", Dr. Gordon:
"I hated him the minute I walked in through the door. I had imagined a kind, ugly, intuitive man looking up and saying 'Ah!' in an encouraging way, as if he could see something I couldn't, and then I would find the words to tell him how I was so scared, as if I were being stuffed father and farther into a black, airless sack with no way out."

What I found most pleasantly surprising about the book was the portrayal of young women coming of age in the early 1950's, before the ideas of women's liberation and equality became fixtures of the American mindset. These women grew up trying to keep up with the Joneses, went to college or worked until they got their Mrs. degrees, were taught to do what was practical and expected of them, and thought they were happiest when their actions were approved by others.

Esther's description of the other young women at the summer internship
These girls looked awfully bored to me. I saw them on the sunroof, yawning and painting their nails and trying to keep up their Bermuda tans, and they seemed bored as hell. I talked with one of them, and she was bored with yachts and bored with flying around in airplanes and bored with skiing in Switzerland at Christmas and bored with the men in Brazil."

Describing her feelings when people visited her in the mental health facility
"I hated these visits, because I kept feeling the visitors measuring my fat and stringy hair against what I had been and what they wanted me to be, and I knew they went away utterly confounded."

Esther's character questions and fights against societal expectations - from her interactions with the other young women during the internship, to her refusal to consider marriage proposal, to her resentment of the electric shock treatment prescribed by of her male psychiatrist, to losing her virginity to someone she did not love - and at the same time cannot seem to find her way out of the societal restrictions placed on her. In this way, Esther's feelings of being trapped under a "bell jar" not only describes her mental state, but the expectations of society at that time as well.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Raindrops gently fall
On vast plains of loneliness;
I am missing you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Writing Prompt: Uncommon Pairs

He gave her his helmet, which seemed to her the most romantic gesture. She climbed on the back of his motorcycle, wishing she had worn a more practical dress - one she didn't have to keep hiking up past her knees for fear of getting caught on some wayward piece of metal. They made their way through the streets of his city, whizzing past sights more familiar to her after nine days. He headed south toward the lonely mountain, the one she spotted on her fourth day, but decided not to visit. People told her the mountain provided the best views, but she preferred to experience the city hands on, absorb its energy through her pores. She clung to him tighter as they spiraled up to the top. She wanted to hold on to this moment longer than she knew it would last. It should have been enough for her to see his smile everyday, watch his fingers steady restless glasses on his face. But of course, she wanted more. She wanted to free him from the sinister desk he had chained himself behind, from the life he had settled for.
Writing prompt was to use uncommon pairs of adjectives and nouns. Pairings are noted in bold.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Travel Haikus: Saturday & Sunday, May 30-31, 2009

La Sagrada Familia

Awesome to behold,
Gaudí's holy testament.
We are born again.

To Guillermo

I don’t have much time
To let you know how I feel,
But I can show you.

Shavonne Returns

Home welcomes her back.
Fertile ground to grow her dreams;
Choose a different path.