Reading on the wind

When I fell for one of Ben Lerner’s recommendations in New Yorker Magazine’s The Best Books of 2013, Part 2,  Geoffrey G. O’Brien’s poetry volume “People on Sunday,” it was partly because I haven’t read poetry for two months, and partly because Lerner wrote he and O’Brien “argue over every line of each other’s poetry.”

But O’Brien’s book isn’t available as an ebook yet. And for poetry, I like the almost-weightless experience of ebooks, of being able to step easily into one volume, then step easily into another.

It’s not that I’m fickle. It’s just poetry seems a profoundly natural thing, something like wind, always there and ever-varying, something I experience best when sheltered by a veil of twilight, reading shyly, respectfully, taking the words in small doses, then letting time and life hold my hands as I assimilate the work. Carrying a few printed books around feels too anchored, too discrete, too obvious, to me.

So, for now, “People on Sunday” is on a wishlist and I’ve asked that Amazon ask the publisher to offer it as an ebook. Buying it in printed form would almost dictate I wouldn’t read it, something that surprised me, the reaction strong enough not to be knocked down by a hunger to read new poems.

Objects of Desire: A handful of plums

Like I want to close my eyes and sleep past the end of time right now, that’s how Macy felt, at the point where my story of her begins.

To see her then would have been like watching one of those dinner scenes they put in movies.

Directors think these scenes work, just because we all eat. They mix in some words and grins, some shallow viewpoints switching back and forth, some pauses, raisings of eyebrows, chewing (especially in English movies), and maybe a choking on liquid. Maybe, too, a face surreptitiously watching another player. They are non-action scenes.

That’s what it seemed like with Macy. Here’s how her story played out that day:

Macy fell onto her bed. She curled into a C.

On the table, she’d put a bowl containing a handful of plums. Both bowl and fruits were plum-colored. The fruits were gold-speckled, too. Macy was going to bite one later. It would be yellow and juicy inside.

After dozing a little, Macy reached backward, feeling around for the bowl. It was heavy. She pulled the O of the bowl into her C. The bowl felt cool. If you had been watching, you’d have thought she slept, then.

You’d have missed the bite she took. Too tired to chew, she swallowed a small chunk of flesh whole. Juice stained a corner of her mouth and dripped sugar into the shadows of her fatigued mind.

You’d have missed the hunter who rose from that golden bite to hover over Macy.

An unjessed gyrefalcon on her shoulder, the hunter had a bow in hand, and a quiver of arrows, fletched by herself with kingfisher feathers, bound to her cantle. The hunter’s toes touched Macy and took sustenance from her.

The hunter rose like a miracle out of Macy’s dream, and stepped forward to search for water. She would have been utterly delighted to find a table already set with a carafe and two silver mugs, and, nearby, some fruit.

But when she stepped forward, she lifted her feet over the sweet-sour gold-speckled plums nestled in the bowl around which Macy had curled, and strode away.

How I choose to tell of myself

Should I darken you
with me, sluice
over you like water
spilled from a vessel
kept in the center of
my heart, to justify
the way
you say I stain your

Should I loosen
my words and
like Angel Falls, they slide
in a
glib rush,
held back by no
ten different ways
and more, y mas,
the same,
again, y otra vez,
what I hold

Should I shimmer
my double wings at you,
and catch and smear
their summer-dust
across your brow,
to, fairy-like,
beguile you

Can you hear a quiet
one that binds me to a
a land I walk, my feet

When I write:

summer cherries
their stems like brothers
dark sweet hearts

can you see narrow stems
joined (by a scar) to form
a five-point
star, airy blossoms, crooked
branch, ancient tree (a cousin
to the rose), un-thorned,
yet fierce when taking soil, sun
and storm to mold
five ox-blood-colored hearts
that hit my tongue
with supple
containing lots of cool,
a lot more sweet,
a little tart,
and something
of that

Soft basket (edit 2)

A basket slung over my shoulder
by leather straps, its belly
shaped like a plum,
wove of three kinds of grass —
thick-striped —
holds a stone,
a shadow-self that comes and goes,
places where
I touch the ground,
a river, a sea,
the hot-metal sun,
the frigid moon
in a blue-black sky,
colored lights,
a walnut (or two), brinjals,
an apple tree in bloom, in fruit,
and how one night
I dreamed your name —
its cursive strength.

You called.

I came and touched
your face, buried my fingers
in your hair, swallowed
your wine. We talked,
and kissed between the words.

© 8 Dec 2007, Heather Quinn, all rights reserved; edited 9 Mar 2013, 16 May 2013.

A story about me

Thomas Hardy girl-woman, spiritual sailor, seasoned hunter. That’s me. But I won’t tell you this. When I was a kid, a parent blew the magic away from an improvisation in a chair. That taught me to keep my stories to myself. You will think you know me, but you’ll misinterpret me in any number of ways. The visible surface of my life has been edited leanly. You’re welcome to reclothe it from your imagination. You can think of me as a paper doll or some such. Unless you have heart, curiosity and much patience, that is. Most people summon one or two of these characteristics, but it’s only the rare person who is all three. So pretty much, my secret’s safe with me.

You want to know anyway? Without taking tests or accepting challenges, without putting the work in? Well, here’s a brief rundown: There are “done” facts: I’m a Mom. I draw and paint. Then there are “would’ve” facts: I would have liked to dance, and be a doctor — a psychiatrist. And then there are “now” facts: I do tech and design things to make money. The rest is nobody’s business.

Do I have “if” facts? Yes I do. Those I can detail, because they don’t belong to me yet. If I had the time, for pleasure I’d be a beach girl. I more than like the ocean: I can’t live far away from it. I can accept an inland ocean — remnants of seas that rose up as plateaus, and folded into mountains that weathered away, leaving limestone strata riddled with caves, filtering rainwater into underground aquifers, the water pressurized, tasting sweet from dissolved minerals, welling up from springs that pockmark worn-down slopes dressed in blue-green meadows decorated with stands of ancient tannic-barked trees, the old fissures softened to valleys hidden in the mornings by ever-present mists: old oceans like New York’s Saratoga County, Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region. Near a living sea, or upon an old one, I’d dance, and have a horse and a couple of dogs. Maybe two horses.

And that’s it. Except: when I’m coldest is when I’m not. When I’m quiet, something’s boiling inside. And when I’m noisy, I’m feinting. For what, and why? It’ll take you years to figure out why, not to mention what’s involved. Just like everyone, I’m an imperfect mess (sic) of contradictions.

Lord, have mercy on us. Ameen.


Silk jacket (wip)

She was smart, lost and afraid of being both. Hunting for allies. she tried to catch me by leaning against a doorway to chat for a quarter-hour every day. “Come, sit,” I’d say. When she would came in, she’d pick up my son’s photo, a basket of pebbles, a dish, a pen, anything not connected with work, examine the object, replace it, then bend close enough to whisper, ruffling my hair with her breath. She didn’t talk about either of us. It was all gossip. She wanted to hear and make noise, to distract herself. I felt a sisterly concern for her. That should have been a warning.

Brought into the firm by the CEO, she was not as protected as she thought. Seemingly oblivious of this, she’d do restaurant lunches people earning four times her salary wouldn’t do, come back late, throw up in the bathroom, then walk around visiting, letting her work slide, trailing a tequila sharpness, or a rum fug that reminded me of slow-burning sugar. She projected fragile enmity, a paradox that made others feel superior. Out of shame and compassion, they wanted to love her. You could see them trying. I tried too.

I was an urban cowgirl.  Most of us in the firm were like that — city cowboys and cowgirls, independent, hard working, in debt to no one — tech workers, very much in demand. We were building a new industry in New York, though we didn’t realize it then. We each had a particular style of dressing — the same only in that we were all different. As pioneers, you see, we were making things our own way. Because I had used to design clothing, and our company produced software for the fashion industry, I dressed with deliberate wit, sending messages through textures, fibers, cuts and colors. My style drew others to me, yet also made a little barrier, a test — could people get past my packaging and figure me out? It was arrogance. Nothing ominous. I used it to keep the evil eye away so I could focus on my life and job.

I can see now how this must have maddened her. I was questions, mysteries, while she was hungry for answers. I must have seemed like a challenge to her at first.

She tried. But nothing she did could engage me the way she wanted to. I didn’t care about her beach weekends with the CEO and his boyfriend. I love Fire Island, but weekends are mine. Her boozy casual dinners for large groups made me shudder. I like eating alone. I like tangled walks through the city night with a boyfriend, after supper and beers.

By way of the northern sky (edit 1)

In the light that enters morning
by way of the northern sky,
a Swede encloses a Finn in his arms,
absorbing her darkness,
softening with his smooth brow
the recurve tension of her lips,
ignoring that she took him for herself
before ever he took her as his own. 

Unbalanced in their sufferance,
they spun out music, children and,
in some of us, dance.
They echoed with the sound of you
before ever you came
gliding in passerine suppleness,
music under your wings, landing
with a husshhhh,
with a flutter, like a passing dove.

The keris of lion love (edit 1)

The lions of my heart, including me,
have a core of honest creativity
around which spiral all the moments
of their being.
Between the core and outward-moving
is a luminescent space called love.
If you find yourself in that place,
thank your stars.
It may be scary, full of strong energy,
but you’ll never find anything else like it.

What if I met another lion,
and the spirals of our moments
intertwined like DNA?
What kind of love would we make?
My love has always fared best in outer space,
which cools the nuclear heat of love in me.
What if I met another spiral galaxy,
and gravitation pulled us into one?
All I can think is holy fuck.

The purpose of that lion space of love
is to mediate the moments of our lives,
to help the ones we’re drawn to
find the core of us.
What if I met another lion, and
the space of love in each of us,
in equal brilliance canceling the other,
let us see each other’s cores
with no intervening light,
and the space and light of love became a passage,
love became a cushion, a poem,
love became a feather in the wind?

Oh, to dance around the center
of another honest lion,
and watch him dance around the core of me.
Holy fuck,
what an amazing thing that would be.

Blue eyes (edit 1)

Rain-streaked bricks,
pepper-green trees,
and the sky —
thick as oatmeal, and gray as a city cat —
welcome a procession of
Nanas, walking slow,
humming descants,
dressed in wraps of blue —
turquoise, aquamarine, and harbor —
stirring up the storm.

Their hands set bells
and nazar boncuğu to work, spinning,
facing down anyone who dares
to try poisoning my well.

They take rest, and sip
at sweetened tea. The morning grows old.
As the Nanas leave,
they lift the end of my shawl
into the wind.
Its gauze is cool, fragrant with indigo
from shadows
of past summer suns,
and scattered over with soft diamonds
smiling at blue eyes
winking in the rain
under an ash-wood bough.

Blue eyes

Copper-hued bricks, pepper-green trees,
a sky as thick as boiled oatmeal
and gray as a city cat, and rain, these
are this season’s prelude to the coming
of three grandmothers, each wrapped in a blue:
turquoise, aquamarine and harbor.

Waving their hands to stir up the breeze
that sets bells and nazar boncuğu spinning,
they give these instructions: stare down
anyone who hungers to poison a well.

Retreating, my ladies bless a shawl,
a dupatta sharply redolent of the indigo
shadows it cast under past summers’ suns,
one that’s soft, cool and sprinkled with stars
that smile at the sight of blue eyes
hanging from an ash-wood bough.