Bunnyman, my 12 year old son, just loves school. His teacher starts talking and he mutes the video on his laptop, spreads a quilt on the kitchen floor, lays his head down, closes his eyes to catch up on sleep. His teacher continues teaching. It is a win-win-win because I sit nearby at the kitchen table drinking my morning coffee in the relative quiet taking notes for him thinking. I think about how to bring up his new school words and subject matter for later when he and I run errands and go to the grocery store and post office. Oh, look, I’ll say, to him when we stand in Produce, that lady looks like an archetypical mom buying an archetypical chicken. I wonder how many archetypical apples she needs for her two archetypical children if each child brings home four masked friends for a snack…(dicey work this math and me). Oh, Lord, Let there be a Lord. And if there is a Lord, Lord, speak to me in my love language and send me chocolates, a box of Kleenex and an empty UHaul with two strong masked men (of good humor) to help me clear my conscience for thinking ill of my rich neighbors with swimming pools that they’ve fixed with firehoses to soak their properties with the water (from their built-in sea water pools). Oh Lord, and please make me smarter. Make me not notice news so much and how these same my rich neighbors are so smart and parked large empty UHauls on our street to fill them with their house stuff in case there’s a fire evacuation order that comes down. Oh, Lord, I’ve done what I can, kept my kids safe (and extra calm) this week (extra credit please because we’ve even kind of gone to online school!). My Fortuny lamps in the living room will go the fastest. (Gold leaf on hand painted silk is like this). The oil paintings I painted over the last forty years will only feed a fire. The George Smith chairs and sofa in the old barn will be an amuse bouche for the fire (one for breakfast), my husband’s Spratling jug will be a silver cheesemelt. My young son’s teacher keeps on talking as he naps on, What’s the integer here? The teacher asks his class. I write the word integer down in my journal to work it into a conversation for later with my son and I will buy stamps at the post office. I’m stuck on the word integer now like how I’m stuck on all the extracurricular suffering these last months, kids in cages, BLM…hate worship, now come on! In the so-called richest country in the world? How does one measure riches, Lord? How can we pull together as a world? How to make people feel like they belong? Where is the deepest place, Lord? Is it our hearts? Maybe go ask Your father, God, Lord? Go ask Him/Her/They how we solve for basic decency and goodness? While your there, please ask Him how to solve for why?


Was Love


Was love between us, a scent of danger, of linger, of orange and lemon, of salt and sand, of time dare not, of leave not please, of please come back, of one minute more, of one minute more, then gone.



I’m the bride in the room.  Eight bridesmaids on the altar and only now do I realize I do not know what keeps my sisters awake at night.  All those white wine spritzers wasted talking about ribbon.That I should have picked my best friend Marianne I don’t pick her because she’s fat. Now I’ve broken something I can’t fix.  Oh, I hate how I feel, that and, that my fiancé and I fought last night gives me the creeps.  Did I make a mistake?  I’m thirty, so all right already.  I just want to forget my best brother is dying and get that man and that woman over there to see there’s a bride in the room.  That everything’s perfect.  

I see Pat, my dying brother up front.  At least you’ve got a plan man, I think.  A bartender, sailor, a ‘gonna be big kind of guy,’ HIV deadbeat inside of three years.  Me?  Hah!  No plan.  I’ll give it a year, maybe two, but at least I’m not going to get stuck like Mom. 

I’m looking down the aisle toward the front of the church, right hand on Dad’s left arm twirling my engagement ring with my left thumb, Mass’s about to begin.  Whoa, got a train to catch Dad?  In four strides, we are at the altar.   Wait, gotta think this thing through.  I tilt a look at Dad, a dog sending signals.  Start the car, man.  I am scanning all the nice people looking my way, smiling, nodding heads, looking at the flowers, the dresses, each other, at me.   Hey Dad, get a load of the Fishers.  Oh, how I wanted to be in that family.  God soaped faces, the kind of love at 80, found on the head of a pin.

Pat and my eyes lock.  Idiot’s busting a smile.  I’m framing him.  He’s framing me, for a picture for later.  You’re not leaving me man I’m leaving you.  Don’t even think about it, or, you know I’ll murderize you.  (How we talk love in those days.)  I smile until my face hurts.  Damn no.   Then, I tell him a lie with a look.  Looking good man.  I want to stop this madness.  Stop, no, run, no, give.  Give God my right arm, my right lung, my left kidney.  Whatever God wants God gets, right?  He can have it.  Except for Pat.  All I want is for God to give Pat back to Pat, Pat back to us, back to me.  Then run, tell the jerk world, our folks, the jerk him self — guess what man?  God’s only kidding sucker.   Your ass is saved.  You’re off His short list.  Just one thing though — you owe me big.  God was just kidding.  Then, we will have one f***ing long, long, long laugh. 

I watch my brother as he rubs his cheek, his hand doesn’t stop though, goes around to the back of his neck.  Sure looks tired.  He squeezes some loose flesh inside his jacket through his tux shirt, bet he didn’t eat again today.  A straight line forms where my smile should be.  Alongside my brother now, I get in his face and think.  What kind of tough Mick are you?  Drink that thick shake the doctor told you to drink and M.’s gonna grow on you.   Maybe Pat has some sixth sense about junk maybe its just weirdness. 

I pass by Mom.  Stop.   In my tracks.  Nice. Dress. Mom.  Guess you didn’t get the memo. Remember me saying just please no white dresses unless you’re the bride?  I look back at Pat.  What about this man?  You couldn’t take care of this?  Thanks for nothing buddy.  Now I got a sixty-year-old twin with the same name wearing a white dress all day long.  Oh, God, my fiance’s a Gemini too, not that I believe that crap.  I look over my right shoulder see my mother-in-law.  She’s wearing white too.  I look back at Pat.  Bartender, make it a triple.  We got a theme party of mothers wearing white.

Bonsai Love

One grand room is all I need. 

One part possibility, one part stage.  90, 10.  80, 20.  60, 40.  50, 50 days.  A day’s worth of downy air, downy quiet in downy light. A Bic lighter fuse to straw. 

An ebb whimper blend whirl of summation conflagration of you, me.  I, thou baby. When we pull the cage drapes, strike the tent, stow the chicken wire meant to keep critters out, tame our critter tempers, no stopping a rat’s lust for berries, give the day its take in filler flowers, every good arrangement mixed with precious, cherry blossoms and rhubarb and music. I will save the scene for a science reduction sauce to study the brain neurotransmissions, micro density weights trying to understand the importance of frozen rodents brains in a sausage slicer per the Sunday’s Times. Of mice, of men, of women. 

An idea I (and science) cannot get close enough. to see why weirdo rats pulse like we do.  Why we all ebb, flow, dance, weigh our thoughts, chemical feelings swabbed under glass, one column of unmarked territory connecting to another, the usual suspect constellations. Scientists in lab coats figuring formulas for the resurrection of sex, cashing in on a longer pharma forever, a Vegas flush, short, long, of temporary ecstasies, a better than sex sex with strangers substitute, some kind of bamboo bridge between species, as far as China from here.  Bottom line is: absence and fondness figure in on love, on desire.  An absence of fondness with too much togetherness. 

I wonder about my fondness for absence.  Ones requiring my being more absent with criticism, absent of self, my being less of me is more, more kind to you, my fullness of fondness sometimes absent, my being so full of my angry dad and mom. They, not so much liking your’s.  My tit for tat not fitting your tat for tit tattooed on our forever DNA codes.

to times like that I say, let’s break the fast fast baby, break the love fast and redefine love without borders like doctors do.  Let’s offer love to each other, others on the street, in the park, in the dark, on a train just the same, overseas, in the air, birds and bees.  Let’s see what happens if we let light tickle us awake as we learn the Swahili secret ways to tango in rediscovered love caves. Us spelunking, caving in, reading caveman/cavewomen graffiti paintings on the wall, learning the best way to float a kite in high winds under cerulean skies, staying away from the high blame wires, the high up trees.  The sooner we get okay with getting older, not so much wiser, tossing judgment, quitting that old habit, and feel the wind the better. Yes that. I want to learn to be like the wind more.  Smell the gold in air caressing fragrant hills, not worry about owning so much anymore.  I just want to get chill enough, quit the fence talking kind of thinking, quit the looking over greener hypothese scenarios, my flowchart on the neighbor yards.  I know, ditto.  Ditto.  Ditto.  Ditto for you too. 

Let’s quit the merry fairy go round running round the house outside.   Part of love the little lies we tell ourselves when we get quiet enough, reframing things when we see we’ve got love enough for the both of us and then some, enough for for all the world.Enough for the invisible people, the gasman, the grocery clerk, the teachers, nurses, cleaning lady.  Love the bonsai of love. Love the gaba gaba tea leave love, ignore the uptick regulators screaming something’s wrong all the time. 
Call the doctor, the medics. The technopyroannoyances between us, AC DC folks, leave the sex pantomines for others. Whatever.  Let’s forget the approach to the familiar, maybe do some porch sitting for a change.  Not use the bait hooks so much, look where its gotten us so far, instead let’s drag the fishing pole behind us in the stream from the boat until the trout says, “Enough.  I’ve had enough of seed, small fish, and algae.  I’m going to take that hook and jump in.”  Then we’ll eat well for the night.  We all got choices.  Fish too.

Porgy Loves Bess

Porgy loves Bess. 

I mean, he really digs her despite her feet of clay. 

Feet she is washing at the water pump.  One that runs out with the receding tide of Bess’ good intentions of turning her life around, finally becoming an honest woman. 

Not five minutes into last night’s Broadway production at the Richard Rogers Theatre, Bess had given up on Bess. 

Powerless and hurt she is defeated again and back on drugs.

Yet sweet Porgy, reserves judgment.  He will not ‘mouth down on Bess,’ nor will he let others get their digs in.  Not even as Bess travels far afield on a path of self-annihiation, her dope loving ways, her tendencies to be swayed by character-free hanger-oners.  She who is tossed out by the whole town, Porgy calls still his own.  His one true Bess.

“A cripple can’t keep a woman,” the folk refrain to the injured Porgy, “Half a man’s a no good man.  Quit her, forget about trying, about her kind of woman.” 

Porgy, is all of us.  He sees Bess’ essence, sees through her damage.  And, we see through his.  ‘We alls gots damage,’ he intones. 

Strong enough for two, Porgy’s vision of Bess and himself is sure. 

Limping badly, without a map, he takes off to find his runaway lost dreamer, Bess, in the vast north.  Off to New York City with a dope fiend.  Porgy is undeterred, his only belongings, the clutch of a bandana sack in his hand, his heart as compass, on imperfect legs.  Life is hard. Giving up, not an option.

The curtain closes with this possibility.

What, however, if Part 2 were to open? 

See Bess now?  On a bare set.  NYC in July at dusk.  Shimmer on the building magnifies heat. 

Bess, in a faded slip, stands, hands empty, strung out near a clothesline between buildings, hung with a shred of underthings, dungarees, a stained calico dress. Hardly a stir on the rusted fire escape stage left. 

The lack of privacy, she hates.  She feels eyes everywhere.  The grubbed sweat on her body, her brow, the fresh start of forever doomed already, it will never wipe clean the dream she longs for, the Porgy she left.

Behind her, the dandy letch she came with rubs his palms together, waiting to prey her back into a corner.  His coaxing, “Bess, I know your type.”

Back to drugs, denial, a soul’s ruin.

Enter the limping Porgy.  New in town, he lumbers onto the city street.  Much castabout, yet a glow of glory joys about Porgy.  Directed to a rooming house across the way on the same street as Bess and her junkie partner, to a five story walk up, Porgy struggles up the stairs. 

Opening his sluggish window, he leans into the fire escape and surveys the new city land.

Across the way, a lock of eyes.  A look to cherrish.

Porgy’s spent face spies Bess’.  Then in a flash, a proof of love that needs few words, their eyes meet.  Bess, sees Porgy, he her, both, as if for the first time.  She sings her miracle valentine, “Porgy, I (really) is your woman now.”

(c) M. K. Smyth 2012

Dearly Undeparted

Love, the Gwyneth Paltrow movie star way. 

Cool, short. Neat.  On a city bridge in the rain.  The bridge her grandfather built.  Her boyfriend redeems a critical moment.  He really is single and he can prove it. 

Prove love?  The real love I see is messier.  The no excuses kind.  The no “excuse me” kind.

In this same dress I have been here.  The same shoes, three years earlier.  In this same spot, I stood for an hour, to talk with a minister because there was no one else.  I could not excuse myself from talking to him.  From being nice.  From saying the nice things that kept coming to mind so there was no quiet between us.  Still thinking the mean. 

How do I get away from him, I remember thinking.  And now.  My mouth threw words up to me, conjecture about the person who just died.  Someone’s mother I did not know well.  Things people say at funerals about the dearly departed.  What people think between kind thoughts said.  Soft comma nods at intervals that send clues of a sort. 

What departed even means?  What undeparted means? 

Because clearly today, I am dearly undeparted.

A dearly undeparted, who still resides in her body, still harbors her voice in unvoiced ways. 

I watch as Msgr. Flemming’s right hand goes up over his sweated forehead, over fried wire brows beyond where I can see without standing on a box.  That his white floss hairs he flicks lay smooth on red skin tells me he is of a certain age.  His voice, a certain ethnicity.  His collar, stiff, black.  One inch precision, like a large Chicklet candy licked dull, flat, tasteless.  One I want to taste, to make sure.  Try on, to inspect.  To see if it has frays yet, is grey or yellow on its edges.  Still square after all of these years.  But I will not. 

Why Monsignor even talks to me at this reception for Rosemary, I do not know.  Before today, I never saw the man. I do not think I look important.  But try to talk in that direction.  For the old man I make a story about in my mind between smart thoughts said.

Her son is our friend. 

I did not know his mother.  Her son I only know so well.  My husband’s friend.  Good men both.  Now I almost know a third.  A monsignor, no less.  That, and that a good man’s mother has just died is enough for me today. 

Worn to a bend, Rosemary, when I met her the one time I did, survived by three boys and one girl.  Her trophies who do not cut to the chase either. 

Single, widowed, in her eighties.  She lived one town over in a house on a hill behind a municipal park.  Had lunch with friends I heard today.  Their ranks thinning, marked clearly on the refrigerator in her loose scribble hand.  Tells me Wednesdays were booked at noon into the foreseeable future at Katherine’s on Honolulu Av. where I imagine the ladies order a chocolate malt shake, melted cheese on wheat, tomato on the side.

Enough material for monsignor to conclude, recount, Rosemary was a good woman who did God’s work.  Took up her cross like all good women.

Left to read between lines, I take this to mean she did not runaway.

To Paris, to New York.  To Rome.  From the children that look like her, their whining and reticence, more his than hers.  Children she reminded to mind her words, that God sees everything, just like Santa and the teachers at school.  Do not step out of line, speak up in demanding ways. 

Nor do I think she uses the family’s rainy day money set in a jar on a shelf for selfish purposes.  Knowing her son the little I do.  This much is true, she was a good woman who did God’s work.  Took up her cross did not run away.  To Paris.  Or New York.  Did not learn French from the ruddy sweet man with one good sweater at Paris’ Sunday street market.  The man who squeezes tomatoes like his mother taught him, or the woman seller nearby, with a long pug face who shows her how to pinch lemons.  They are ready to use when they smell like the back of a French lover’s neck.  Someone she says with arching eyebrows maybe Rosemary will meet in the country?  Someone to share a baguette and Vespa with when she careens around the too slim roads.  Roads that take her to San Tropez or Monaco with soft shoulder edges, drop away sides, pencil lines roads scratched into a mountain.  No median to slosh into when the tanned stranger pulls alongside.  His coup revving in the oncoming lane as he asks for a light.  Two people alone who throw back their heads with glee, soundless laughs caught in the wind that go over the hill a shepherd hears.  The kind of laughs with teeth you can count.  The driver pushes an index finger into the air, indicates Rosemary should pull off the road at the lookout ahead. She smiles, shakes the waves in her hair, salutes him goodbye.  He gives her a look that says, “poor me,” in a little boy way that starts a new round of laughs, the kind with teeth you can count.

(c) M K Smyth 2012

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