Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Holy Grounds

I ask the barista which of today's blends is the darkest and she tells me that it's "Frank's Big City Blend." When I first sit down to read a collection of Kelly Magee short stories in a coffee shop with wood floors and paperbacks and perfect lighting that is so far away from the big city, a woman enters with three kids right next to where I'm spread out on a leather couch by the front window.

These kids are young--all of them over four but under nine, and all equally expressive. I wonder why a mother with kids who are obviously difficult to quell would seat them beside a studious-looking lass like myself, clearly trying to get reading done. When she gets up to order her coffee, I try, so hard, to get in a paragraph. A really long one with lots of syllables.

The youngest one, a boy in a gray knit cap and mittens, attempts to spell the word "Fox" and gives up before the "x." His mother encourages him. "What would Jesus do? He wouldn't give up, would he? He'd try his hardest."

Now I'm too involved in this family and their love of Jesus to concentrate on pages. So I move, and as soon as I stand up I hear the mother say, "Do you guys want to snag the couch?"

I imagine that every man in this coffee shop walks up to me and asks what I'm reading, and then hits on me. I smile politely, tell him I'm spoken for by a man in a town that's even farther removed from Frank's Big City, who works out harder than I'm trying to concentrate on this book. It looks like Chick Lit but it's not, I swear. I'm a smart girl. You don't know what you're missing.

I have a scratch on my right shin and I itch it, lifting the leg of my jeans just high enough so he can see my grey knee socks, and then I realize that I'm also revealing my boyish (albeit incredibly hip) tennis shoes. My toes wiggle nervously and because the tops of these shoes are nylon, I think he probably notices and falls in love with me.

I've heard this stupid Bon Jovi song three times in the past two days. I've got to befriend one of the baristas so they stop playing such awful music in here. So far though, this isn't my place. I just read here. I mean, sometimes I read here. Sometimes strange men hit on me and sometimes I get distracted by noisy children and two old ladies in matching red wool coats discussing politics in the corner where I usually hide away.

When I pull on my hat and throw my bag over my shoulder, I notice the empty coffee cup I've left on the table. It's not far to the counter, to the gray plastic bin with all the dirty dishes in it. So I pick up my cup with the half-sip lingering at the bottom and take it up there, depositing it in the bin and balancing it on top of a stack of saucers. I wait for a moment, listening across the room for the mother of three to notice and tell her children, "See? That's what Jesus would do."

Friday, January 19, 2007

Ballad of a Hipster

I wrote this song tonight. The challenge was to start a song with the line "Woke up this morning" because I think everybody should have a song that starts that way. It turned into a sort of self-reflexive/social comment thing. The italicized parts are spoken!

I find that it adds to the humor of the piece.


Ballad of a Hipster

Woke up this morning
feeling like a metropolitan pocket-sized version of me.
Yea I'm such a hipster.
Gonna meet my friends for some hookah and darjeeling tea.

After the shisha
Gonna head downtown to a place where they have some good shows
once in a while
and they're usually indie bands that nobody knows.

But I knew them before they were on the radio.

But after a while
it all feels the same.
A person gets tired
trying to remember all those names.

Can't see through my glasses,
at least not enough to spot all the phonies in here
who enjoy Oprah's Book Club
and offend me by drinking pitchers of domestic beer.

Yea, I prefer imported sake.

It's so hard to smile.
You might think I'm a little mean,
but I'm surrounded
by poseurs and philistines.

And when it's bedtime
I pull my vintage covers up over my head.
The four Ninja Turtles
in ironic nostalgia, crawling all over my bed.

I'm sleeping alone.
It's the price you pay when you're the coolest person you know.
I'm such a martyr.
Yea I hope I die young;
it gets exhausting looking down my nose.

I guess that's why I need glasses...

With such thick frames!
With such thick frames!
With such thick frames!
With such thick frames!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Workshop it Out

I'm back in a workshop-style creative writing class. Advanced Creative Writing: Fiction & Poetry. I took Advanced Creative Writing: Poetry as a freshman with this very professor. She's tough as nails, and quite demanding, but I've put out good work under her tutelage so I'm psyched to start another semester with her. There are only seven other people in my class and I always find that smaller groups are more conducive to workshopping.

I'm posting my first workshop poem on here. Over Christmas break this year I spent a lot of days at the mall with my sister--usually I end up at the mall a maximum of four times a year. I think I went to the mall seven times in a matter of two weeks this December.

On one of these trips, I saw an elderly woman fall and hit her head in front of the cosmetics counter. She was with her daughter and her granddaughter. I don't actually know if she died or if she lived, but I wanted to write down what I saw because I can't get the image out of my head.

Christmas Shopping

I watched the old woman fall
against the trampled
marbled department store floor
in front of a dozen make-up artists,
who stirred to life like entranced mannequins.

The fragrance saleswomen rushed at her first,
angels on commission,
through a sinking overpriced haze
of floral spray.
It already smells like a funeral home.

I stood an aisle away
between racks of discounted Christmas sweaters,
the kind I give to my grandma,
who is the same age,
because I can't think of anything better, or maybe
I don’t know her at all.

Her face looks powdery and desolate,
a latex mask with eyes as wide and hollow,
a frozen front-porch grimace,
cracked lips,

Nobody heard her daughter scream for her
over the Muzak and the hard hurried footsteps
and because everything is unwittingly absorbed
in places like this.

I fear she died instantly upon falling.
That her brittle soul is mistakenly headed
for the garishly bright fluorescent light
of the cosmetics counter.
I want to scream
You're going the wrong way!
You're going the wrong way!

But instead I flee in fear
up the down escalator.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Amuse, O Muse!

I wrote a new song tonight. I wanted to use the word "saline" in a set of lyrics so I set off for the task by making that word the first line of the song. After that it sort of evolved into a piece about the frustrating failings of memory.

How your fingers taste to me
I've tried to re-create.
My senses discern and refuse to wait.

Come clean.
Do your hands ever think of me?
Do they scratch at your bodyand make you feel free?
We're safe behind eyelids,
they're curtains that hide our dreams.

Just like Ulysses I'll block my ears
I want to keep your voice right here
The sirens silenced by the din
of your soft whisper from within.

In my head there's a matinee.
You're on three screens but to my dismay
the film breaks in the projector's haste
and it warps the angles of your face.

How your fingers taste to me
I've tried to re-create.
I think I've waited too long.
I think it's getting too late.