Monthly Archives: February 2012

leap

Harpers New Monthly Magazine, No. XX. January, 1852

Happy February 29th!

It is a rare day, one that only occurs every four years ~ giving the entire year a new name: a leap year. The leap year's extra day occurs to "balance out" our calendar. One Earth year does not take an exact number of whole days. Our calendar year is 365 days, but the earth's rotation around the sun actually approximately takes 365.2422 days.

As a person who doesn't hold much for standard units of measuring time, I find this extra day added to the calendar quite amusing! It tickles me the same way that Daylight Savings Time does – I think of it as a joke we all agree to play – let's all set the clocks back, and then forward, and then back again! We are so civilized that we can control TIME!

According to my dictionary, "leap" has several definitions:

1. To spring or bound upward
2. To move from one condition or subject to another
3. A place jumped over or from
4. An act whose consequences cannot be predicted
5. The act of believing or trusting in something that is incapable of being proved

I did some research and found a very thorough article about the Leap year via the BBC News Magazine. This article has a wealth of information about the day, and I found out some interesting things such as: the insertion of an extra day every four years in a 365 day calendar goes back to Julius Caesar’s astronomer, Sosignes. This idea was further developed mathematically under Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582. Different calendars all use some form of “leaping”.

There’s an interesting correlation to women on this day. On February 29, 1692, the first warrants in the Salem witchcraft trials in Massachusetts were issued. Historically, February 29th was the one day in which women were allowed to propose to men. It is believed that this tradition of women “switching places” with men on the leap year day goes back to a time when the day was not recognized by law. It was a renegade day; because the day had no legal status, and occurred so infrequently, it was considered acceptable to break with tradition.

I can’t help but feel a similar thread here. On Feb 29, women were allowed to “act” as if they were men – in terms of pursuing what they wanted (in this case, their choice of a husband, which was a very real concern, considering that not too long ago, a woman’s economic, social, physical, and emotional life depended on her position in marriage). On Feb 29, the first warrants leading to the Salem Witchcraft Trials were issued, which we know of now as the most famous accounts of persecuting women in history.

I’m thinking today about women. I’ve been hearing a lot of things recently that I must confess, I don’t really care to think about. I rather think in terms of “humanity” rather than “women vs. men”. But sometimes it becomes apparent that women are still laboring to live under traditional constraints and rules, subject to persecution simply because they are women. I don’t understand this, but I do recognize it. And I also recognize that many women play a part in their own subjugation.

It was the Susan Komen Foundation – maybe one of the most famous women centered organizations today – who most recently decided to withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood. Why? Because Planned Parenthood has been under attack. Because Planned Parenthood offers services to young women. Because Planned Parenthood gives abortions. The Republican party this election year, headed by presidential hopefuls like Rick Sanoturm, have focused on Planned Parenthood (yet again) as a symbol of what needs to be fixed in America.

Forget the glaring economic crisis or the fact that unemployment is so high that every other person I meet is without a job. Forget the recent attempts at governmental internet censorship, calling our very idea of democracy into question. Forget the incredible need to mend the crumbling infrastructure of this government. Don’t listen to what the entire country has been saying via the various and spontaneous occupy movements. No … that would make sense.

Instead, it seems that politicians and people in “power” only want to talk about two things: women’s reproductive rights and gay rights. And to the same effect – to limit and control them. Even the recent fiasco of PayPal refusing to handle transactions on very specific books – books with erotic, sexual content – I’ve been seeing authors (mostly women, by the way) finding their independent creative work being thrown aside and made unavailable, in a sick move reminiscent of the banning and burning of books. Why?? It does not make sense. Because they are sexual, and PayPal (a business of money transaction) has suddenly felt a moral need to censor books with erotic content?

It burns me up to think that an author like Sharon Olds, who is a celebrated, respected, literary poet with several books published through an independent, private publishing house, and who has taught at one of the most well known and expensive universities in Manhattan, writes some of the most explicit and sexual work I have ever read. But … a writer who self-publishes and calls her work “erotica” is in danger of having her books taken from the public eye, and insulted further by being refused by the most common method of payment online?

Planned Parenthood is where I go for my annual check-ups. It was where I went to get my pregnancy tests. I have been to “private” gynecologists and I prefer Planned Parenthood. I prefer Planned Parenthood because they are a clinic, they are professional, they are highly educated about women’s health, and they understand the tie between politics and women. And when push comes to shove, they are for women. All women. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, black or white, old or young. You will get the same care. Planned Parenthood also offers many services for men, too.

And that is why I go to Planned Parenthood, why I drive past older white men holding signs saying “Abortion kills babies!” just to go to a routine appointment. No kidding. If people think that women have abortions because it is fun, or because they don’t know what an abortion is … I have to say, just seeing those signs make me angry.

Women I know who have had abortions have found the experience traumatic. It is not “birth control”. It is a last resort for many women, and leaves emotional scars. I wonder, if these anti-abortion activists would even consider finding the man responsible for the pregnancy and forcing a vasectomy – to control man’s reproductive rights. Unthinkable, isn’t it. Yes, controlling someone’s reproductive rights is unthinkable, and should not even be part of a political discussion. Especially suspect about this “discussion” is that it is wholeheartedly directed towards half the human race – women.

Honestly, I’m getting a little angry even writing about this. The truth is, I like being a woman. I like having a woman’s body, a woman’s mind, a woman’s experience. Like the nature of time, there are things that, try as some might, can’t ever be truly controlled – our sexuality, our expressions of sexuality, our reproductive rights – these things are beyond external power. They are deeply personal, from within each of us.

So today is February 29. In another time and place, I may have been issued a warrant for arrest, under suspicion of being a witch. In another time and place, I may have been bold enough to defy traditional convention and on this one day, ask a man for his hand in marriage.

But it is February 29, 2012, and I am here – somewhere between these two poles, wanting only to live as a woman in the world, without these ridiculous attempts to control my sexuality, my expression of such, or my reproductive rights – on a day that exists only once every four years, an eclipse into shadow, nostalgia burned into memory; wishing, wanting, lingering in the half-light of reason, and still hope.


reading series 2.3

I’ve loved reading books for as long as I can remember. As a child, I had a small collection of books. I had a few large picture books – Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Night Before Christmas, and The Wizard of Oz. I had a children’s bible, a paperback of The Seven Chinese Brothers, and a little book called Childhood is a time of Innocence by Joan Walsh Anglund. It was from this collection that my father read to me each night, and I loved and knew these books backwards and forwards.

Although I had a small collection in my house, my mother also brought my sister and I to the library each week, where a whole world of books was available to me, for free. We went to a weekly story-time at the library, and each week my mother took out a stack of children’s books for me. As I grew older, the habit of visiting the library continued, and I was constantly finding new things to read. I remember choosing very carefully because there was a maximum limit of books that one could check out at a time. The library was a special, magical place for me as a child. And even now, I love walking through bookstores and libraries. There is something almost sacrosanct about the very structures that house books to me, and I feel, upon entering, the way the truly religious must feel when entering a house of worship.

I’ve often wondering where this love of reading and books came from. Neither of my parents were into reading. My mother brought me to the library because she knew I loved being there. My father read to me at night because it was his duty – since he worked so much, it was his job to read to my sister and I before he tucked us in at night. I remember how he would try to skip lines to finish faster, how he sometimes stumbled over certain words, how patient he was when I told him he missed a paragraph or pointed out his mistakes in pronunciation, how he would read “one more”, even though he was exhausted from working 12 hour shifts each day in the warehouse.

Trying to trace this love of reading, I found myself thinking about my great-Aunt Ella. Aunt Ella was my grandmother’s oldest sister by twenty years. She had come to America with her father and another sister to work and save money to send for the rest of the family in Italy. When I was a child, Aunt Ella was already a very old woman. She was under 5ft tall, and round, with wispy white hair. Her skin was very wrinkled and fell in loose folds on her small frame.

My mother brought my sister and I to visit her each week. Each visit would begin by putting on the black coffee (espresso) and allowing my sister and I to choose our favorite demitasse cups and small silver spoons. We were allowed half an inch of black coffee, and I remember putting nearly as much sugar into the cup because it was so bitter. As a child, I found these visits immensely boring. Aunt Ella weaved between past and present, watched television and told stories. Inevitably, she would break down in tears, my mother’s hand on her back, comforting her. A box of tissues was always on the corner table next to where she sat on the couch. Under the table and next to the couch were stacks and stacks of books – all Harlequin Romance novels.

My Aunt Ella learned to speak English by reading Harlequin Romances, she said. She nodded approvingly when I would take one of the books to read while nursing that strange brew of black coffee and sugar. “You like to read. Good. Very good.” She would say to me, then fall into memories, stories and tears, while the television played an afternoon of soap operas. I remember reading through these books very quietly, hopped up on caffeine and sugar, hoping my mother wouldn’t notice what I was reading, my child’s mind spinning with erotic words and stories. I also remember skimming through the books, looking for the “good parts”, the places where the language deviated from the standard plot, and became more suggestive, more passionate. These books opened up the world of erotic language to me.

Outside of Aunt Ella’s house, I didn’t read romance novels. In fact, for a long time, I wanted to read “serious” books. I haunted the library looking for serious literature, as well as non-fiction books on psychology, philosophy, science, history, etc. It wasn’t until I was working at a bookstore that I came across the genre of erotica. I felt that same strange thrill as when I was a child reading Aunt Ella’s romance books.

I wound up buying one of the erotica books by Anne Rice, the first in her Sleeping Beauty series. She had originally written erotica under a pseudonym, and then the authorship changed in subsequent editions to “Anne Rice writing as …” This was my first glimpse into an author claiming accountability for written work after initially writing under a secret name. It made me wonder why she didn’t claim accountability in the first place, which made me aware that erotica, as a genre, was not always accepted by the general reading public.

Since then, I’ve seen the reception to the genre change and evolve in many different ways. Today’s erotica writers are literate, poetic, and passionate about storytelling and the concept of the body engaging in sex as a story told in a different language. Our attempt is to translate this experience, this wordless language, into something that can be shared and understood in the context of a story. It is a complex process that goes beyond the physical, and is an exciting place to explore, to reveal, to discover – for both writers and readers.

Today, I wanted to share a video clip of me reading the very beginning of my erotic story “Wolf Moon.”

I want to offer this video as a way of sharing something a little different with readers; it is a different type of reveal. This is who I am. It is my way of saying thank you for reading what I write here. There are some people who read this website who I may never meet in person. Some people have written comments on my poems and stories and blogs, and I am always so touched to know that what I have written has reached another person. I am both happy and grateful to share who I am with you. Thank you. xo

Click here to see me reading a little excerpt from “Wolf Moon.”


wolf moon

Click the photo above or follow the link here to view Michelle reading a short excerpt from her story “Wolf Moon”.

“Wolf Moon” is part of the erotica anthology Lustfully Ever After, edited by Kristina Wright and published by Cleis Press (May 2012)

*


fail better

Fail Better.

I feel myself going into myself, coiling inwards
here, in this cursed place; here in this place where
not everything thrives, mostly everything withers

under threat of salt water or smog. I have seen the
evidence, the flooding, the smoke and charred skin
the hot glow of desire and then the binding

If a poem is written, as if one’s life depended on ink
would write in blood if necessary, does it fall like a tree
in the woods / without witness, does it make a sound?

I evolve my answers as the questions become harder
I want and wanting does not feed and clothe babies, it
does not know the language of fuel and utilities

To trust it is pure madness and I am tenacious, at risk
of fracture I keep walking this tightrope, hoping the
next step will be something I could stand on, real

as existence, sure as gravity. I reach with hands and
arms outstretched, still it seems so far and the bottom
is so hard; falling, failing, a bough breaking

words scatter like seeds on a hard wood floor, and I
take a deep breath, kneel down and pick up the pieces
try again, fail again / find a new beginning.

*


kaleidoscope

Halfway to Long Island, Ben had a panic attack and had to pull over to the side of the road. Still clutching the damp and wrinkled directions in his hand, he decided that he was a jerk, an idiot, for thinking that they would even want to see him.

Each exit he passed was the one he was going to get off, the one that would take him as far away as possible. The sun was prismatic; it shattered the sky with kaleidoscopic color. He couldn’t see through the glare on the windshield. His head was pounding.

Taking a deep breath, he wiped his brow, then pulled back onto the parkway. It was nearing two o’clock. He knew Ari wouldn’t be home from school yet, which would give him a little time alone with Robin. He couldn’t face them both at the same time. Ben parked at least ten houses away from where Robin lived.

She had moved, Matt said, because the rent at their old place got too high. She was living in a basement apartment outside of the city with Ari. Ben knew Robin had always hated suburbia and he felt a pang of sadness as he passed houses that all looked the same, searching for the right number.

78. It was a decent, rundown house. Matt had told him to go through the side gate, which lead to the backyard. To the right was a stairwell lined with painted terra cotta pots and chimes that, moved by the sudden wind, rang in cacophony. He descended the stairs, his hand clutching the bag which held Ari’s gift. After several deep breaths, he knocked tentatively on Robin’s door.

“What does he want?” was the second thought that ran through Robin’s head. The first thought was not a thought; it was a visualization of action. She wanted to back away from the door. She wanted to run away and hide. She stayed in the hallway for a few seconds, her heart racing.

Ari looked like just like him: same nose, same eyebrows, same jut of the chin. Ben’s eyes were Ari’s eyes, pale green or blue, depending on his mood and the way his mind was turning. Ben bit his lip nervously. He was wearing an impossibly thin coat despite the March snow that still lingered in the bottom of the stairwell. She opened the door a crack and met his eyes.

“I know … it’s been a while,” he said. His hands were shaking slightly, and he attempted to put them in his pockets. The shopping bag secured around his wrist caused him to struggle to find his right pocket, until he gave up and let his arm fall by his side, still clutching the bag.

“What are you doing here?” Robin asked.

Ben opened his mouth to speak and closed it again. He looked at her plaintively, unable to find the words. She closed her eyes slightly, and opened the door further for him to enter.

They moved around each other in the small space. Robin thought, how strange it was to have loved someone so fully, to have breathed that person in until he had become part of her; and then, to have him before her as a person she could not touch, a person she could no longer lay claim to.

“Would you like some coffee?” She asked.

“I would love some.”

Moments passed in uncomfortable silence. Ben looked around the kitchen, trying to find threads of their old life. His eye caught the painting above the table, “That’s new?”

Robin turned and followed his gaze to a rather small abstract painting; it was a scene of the beach, the colors muted and distant. Sometimes Robin thought she could hear the cry of seagulls, their insatiable hunger, vibrate on the surface of the canvas.

She tensed. “Oh, that. I finished that about a year ago.”

“It’s … it’s really beautiful,” Ben said. He cleared his throat. “You’ve gotten a lot better. I mean, you were always great. But it’s different …”

“Why don’t you sit down?” Robin asked.

Ben wondered which place was Ari’s. There were three chairs at the table; the thought that the third chair might belong to someone else pained him. He remained standing.

“I read your book.”

“Oh.” Ben said. “I’m almost done with my second one … that’s why I’m here. I mean, that’s why I’m here in New York.”

“I see,” Robin said, looking down at her hands. “How’s that coming?”

“Good, I guess. You know. It can be… difficult, at times.” Ben cleared his throat again. “You know how it is.”

“I don’t know if I do, Ben.” Robin said, her voice edging discomfort. The coffee pot behind her continued its persistent sound, a noise that seemed to gather volume as they avoided each others eyes.

Ben wrapped his hands around his cup. Robin imagined that if he lifted a finger, or his palm, off the cup, he would crumble. She wondered if she would try to put him back together, or if she would purse her lips and blow, as if that movement of air would push him away, scatter the past like dust.

“I can’t force a conversation with you …” Robin began.

Ben looked at the painting again. “You know I’ve been in and out of the hospital, right?”

“I’ve talked to Matt.”

“It’s the meds … They’re supposed to be making me better, more stable. But I think they’re just making me worse.” He paused then leaped ahead as if crossing a stretch as wide and deep as a fault line in the earth.

“Do you know how much I’ve missed you?”

“How could I know that, Ben? After the first time you just checked out. You left. Nothing …” Robin struggled to control herself. “Didn’t you think about Ari? Even once?”

“Of course I did.” Ben faced her. “I wanted … How could I …”

They stared at each other for a long while, frankly, viewing each other in parts that did not quite make up a whole.

Robin’s face told him about the days she had waited to hear from him, about Ari at six, seven, years he missed, years he left her to take on the responsibility by herself. Ben’s face told her about the nights he had stayed away from her, about the spiraling downs, the manic highs, the loneliness and the guilt, the bathroom mirror at 3am, all the pills.

“I brought something for him,” Ben said, motioning to the bag that he finally released and placed on the table.

After deciding to visit Robin and Ari, Ben had rationalized that he couldn’t show up empty handed. Matt told him about a store in Manhattan that was packed with curiosities and antiques, all unusual or different in some way. Ben had walked throughout the store lightly; afraid he would bump into something and knock it over.

“Can I help you, Sir?” A well-dressed saleswoman had asked, eyeing Ben as if she wasn’t quite sure he could afford most of the items in the store.

“Yes, I’m looking for a gift… for a boy, about seven years old.”

“What are some of the little boy’s interests? Science? Art? Music, perhaps?”

Ben didn’t know what Ari’s interests were, but he couldn’t say that; he barely wanted to recognize it himself. “I just want to get him something unique and beautiful … something he can hold, something to stir his imagination.”

The saleswoman had nodded and directed Ben towards the back of the shop. It was there that he noticed a kaleidoscope, tucked into a corner. Ben picked it up and looked through it. The world changed unexpectedly. It was breathtaking and filled him with a deep joy. He wanted to share that vision, that momentary enchantment.

Robin looked at the clock. Ari would be home from school soon.

“How is he?” Ben asked, averting his eyes.

“He’s okay. He’s really smart, really creative. I don’t think he has that many friends in school. But he’s relatively happy.” Robin paused. “You hurt him, Ben. He and I have a great relationship, but … I’m not his father.”

“Look at me.” Ben said, extending his hands upward. “I’m a fucking mess, Robin. It’s better that I’ve stayed away all these years.”

“Better for who?”

“For you, for Ari. I can’t be what you need.”

“What do you know about what we need? You’ve been, what, in and out of hospitals, you’ve been working on your second book. You, you, you. Do you hear yourself?” Robin felt her voice growing louder. “It’s all about you. It always was.”

Ben looked at her with relief; he would no longer have to wait for her anger, knowing it would come but not knowing when. “You’ve always been the more responsible one.”

“Because I had to be,” Robin spat at him, “Don’t you think I’ve wanted to be free of consequences, to do whatever the fuck I want, to really concentrate on my art, and not just … when I can?”

“Is that what you think I do? You have Ari, you have a life… I have nothing. Words, paper, a book. I spend half my time writing and the other half of it wanting to die. You want that? You can have it. You can have my disorder and my pills and my instability and my fucking overwhelming emptiness.”

Robin gazed into the living room, instinctively searching out the painting she had done when Ari was about five years old, around the time Ben had left. When it was finished, she had laid it against the wall to finish drying. Robin had sensed that it was a turning point in her work.

That night, when Ari had walked into the kitchen for dinner, Robin remembered turning to him, noticing his look of joy, then his hand, streaked with yellow ochre and alizarin crimson. Her heart had seemed to stop.

“You didn’t touch Mommy’s painting, did you?”

“I’m an artist, too!” Ari laughed.

Robin had raced into the living room to check the painting. The right side of the painting was blurred along the edge. Ari had taken his hand and allowed it to travel downwards in a long stroke, as if petting a sleepy cat.

Robin broke down. She literally fell to the floor in front of the painting; the strength that she had seemed to summon since Ben left was gone. She wept openly, bitterly. Ari watched, his eyes wide and scared. Robin caught his expression through her own pain, and knew that she would have to pull it together, allow the gaping wound to scar, accept that it might never heal. She needed to be stronger. For herself, for Ari.

At 3:25, the school bus arrived. Robin had told Ben it would be better for him to wait inside the apartment.

She stood on the sidewalk and waited for Ari to descend from the bus. The sun was cold brightness. Light refracted from windows and the chrome of car bumpers, throwing a dizzying spell.

Ari’s blonde head burned brightly under it; his hair was getting a little too long, and he pushed it from his eyes in order to see Robin. He ran across the street, smiling, dragging his book bag on the ground, his coat thrown open against the rough wind.

“Ari. Hold on a sec.” Robin looked at him, his face was so trusting, as open as the sky.

“What’s up?” Ari asked, furrowing his eyebrows and smiling at the break in their routine.

“Someone came over … someone we haven’t seen for a long time. Your father …”

A cloud passed across Ari’s face. Robin didn’t have time to explain any further; he took off running and didn’t slow down until he reached the gate. Robin was breathing hard when she caught up to him.

“Ari,” she said.

He avoided her eyes.

“Are you sure … I mean, it’s sudden. Are you okay with this?” Robin paused. “I can tell him to leave.”

“No,” he whispered. He didn’t move. He didn’t look at her; he stood rooted outside the gate.

“Do you want me to go in first?” Robin placed her arm protectively around his shoulders, and he nodded.

Ben was sitting in the living room, on the couch that doubled as Robin’s bed, his head in his hands. He looked up when they walked in, his face pale, so pale that Robin instantly asked, “Ben? Are you okay?”

Ari stood behind Robin, the way he used to do when he was much younger, when he was afraid of grown-ups, of strangers.

“I’m … I feel a little sick. I’ll be fine.” Ben tried to smile, but the smile came out more like a grimace.

“Ari, sit down,” Robin said, “let me get your snack.”

Ari sat at the kitchen table. His large eyes, dark and unsmiling, were focused on Ben.

“I brought something for you, Ari.” Ben said the boy’s name as if tasting a new word. “It’s right there, in that bag. You can take it out.”

Ari reached into the bag and took out a wrapped box. He opened the wrapping slowly, carefully, until he reached the plain cardboard that held his gift inside. Lifting each corner flap, he tipped the box so its contents fell into his hand. He turned the object over.

“What is it?” he asked.

“A kaleidoscope. It’s an old-fashioned one,” Ben said.

Robin set a cup of milk in front of Ari, along with some cookies on a paper napkin. “Wow, Ben, that’s really beautiful.”

The kaleidoscope was heavy. The body was constructed of solid wood, the lens was real glass. The turning chamber was an oil filled cell infused with color, containing pieces of glass, beads, wire, polymer clay and other hand made trinkets.

Ari gazed into the object, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

“Well,” Robin asked, “What do you see?”

“Colors,” he said. “I see a star, full of colors and shapes. When I turn this part, the picture changes. This is really cool.”

Ari looked at Robin; he seemed slightly dazed, as if his equilibrium had been altered by the spell of the object. He held the kaleidoscope possessively in his hand and glanced at Ben.

“Thank you,” Ari said softly.

“I … I just wanted to see you for a little bit. But I have to go now.” Ben stood up.

Ari looked up at his father in disbelief.

“It will probably take me about an hour to get the car back to the city, and my flight’s at six o’clock,” Ben explained thinly.

“You’re leaving?”

Robin watched Ari’s face change. She turned towards Ben as the kaleidoscope hit him in the jaw with a smack, a thud, and then crashed to the floor. Ben instinctively put his hand to his face; his eyes filled with tears.

Ari ran out of the kitchen.

“Go.” Robin said sadly. She put her hand on his cheek and gently brushed his bruised jaw with her thumb. Ben closed his eyes. He remained still, as if her touch extended beyond his face to the entire surface of his skin, then deeper, to his heart, his soul.

As she walked down the short hallway to Ari’s room, she heard the faint click of the door closing behind him.

Robin called Ari’s name, then stood outside his door and waited. Moments passed. Each second Robin felt the distance between them growing and shaping into something real.

She thought about the kaleidoscope in her hand and wanted to cradle it in her arms, to restore it to its earlier safety, inside the box, wrapped, an unexpected gift. She called his name again.

Ari opened the door slightly, and then returned to his bed. He curled up, facing the wall. Robin entered lightly and sat on the edge. She smoothed the hair from his damp forehead and placed the kaleidoscope beside him.

“Did I break it?”

“No,” Robin said, “It’s okay.”

Ari touched the kaleidoscope gingerly and held it to his chest.

“I didn’t mean to throw it.”

“I know.” Robin lied down on the bed next to him. Side by side, they searched the cracks in the ceiling.

“Will he ever come back?”

Robin wrapped her arms around Ari and closed her eyes. She imagined Ben leaving, walking into the raw sun, the wind beating down on his shoulders, leaving, over and again, caught the cycle of eternal return.


reading series 2.2

Well, Valentine’s Day has come and gone.

A friend of mine recently said, “it was a lot easier to be cynical about relationships and love when I didn’t know so many people who were happy together.” He continued, saying “I’m going to try to look at this Valentine’s Day the same way I think about Christmas or Thanksgiving, and try to really meditate on the idea of love.”

On Valentine’s Day, my friend felt a little sad. He, like many other people, viewed the day as a representation of what he did not have, or what he had lost. My friend is single, and he wants to be in a relationship. He just has not found someone yet who he has really connected with. In the meantime, he’s keeping an open heart and mind, and working on himself, both in creative and personal ways.

I feel that what he is doing very important and necessary, possibly the most important step before getting involved with another person. He’s opening himself up to love, expanding and discovering who he is. In my last weekly series, I wrote a lot about love and relationships and sex. That is the most obvious to think about when it comes to Valentine’s Day. But I really do feel that love is all around us, in all of the things we are passionate about.

I love my work. I love writing and teaching. I love reading and books. I love gardening and tending to plants. I love nature – the natural world is a constant source of wonder and inspiration to me. In my next weekly series, I am planning on sharing some of my early experiences with books and reading. I’m also planning on sharing a video of me reading some of my work, which should be fun.

Today, I wanted to take a moment to dwell upon another really important part of love, the heart breaking, the idea of failure. I really feel that our failures are there to teach us, to help us grow. And although it hurts, I think that our failures are the places that tell us the most about ourselves. They are the places that allow us to change direction, to search other paths, to try again, to do it right (or as close as we can get to “right”) the next time.

This holds not only for our personal relationships, but also our failures in life, when we try at something and fail to reach it, when we cast our dreams into the stars and find only dark, black sky. There is a quote by Samuel Beckett that I love. He says, “Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Today, I wanted to share some of my attempts to fail better.

The first is a story I wrote a long time ago called “Kaleidoscope.” It is a sad story about a fractured relationship that cannot be healed. Sometimes I think we try and try at something – to make it work – but our lesson in the failing is to know when to walk away. The second is a poem I wrote (again from My Mother’s Daughter), aptly titled “Fail Better” as a nod to Beckett, and the powerful idea behind his words.

Click on these links to read “Kaleidoscope” and “Fail Better.”


feather lit

Feather Lit, a new online journal of literary erotica, has taken flight! I’m so happy to have my poem “his body, the sun” included in the launch issue.

Nikki Magennis, editor of Feather Lit, has curated a collection of “a dozen feathers for the new nest – every one of which offers a uniquely intimate, arousing and provocative glimpse into sex and sexuality.”

Click here to view my poem, and be sure to check out the other work included in this lovely collection of literary erotica!

photo of feather by Cristina Kolitsopoulos