I’ve always had trouble putting into words precisely how being born on February 29th feels to me.
It would be easy to say I have a love-hate relationship with it but that would be inaccurate; I don’t ever hate being born on February 29th. For the most part, I love it. It’s unique. There are a heck of a lot fewer people in this world who share my birthday than any other one. Every four years I get an extra special day to celebrate. It’s a topic of conversation for parties and small talk (this tends to only happen in leap years as otherwise it feels a little sometimes like I’m bragging, though that doesn’t necessarily stop me). And it’s a great truth to include in the getting to know you game, “Two Truths and a Lie.” Spoiler alert: People almost always choose it as my lie.
Most people tend to remember this about me once they learn it. Which means that while some people can’t remember their friends’ or sometimes family members’ birthdays, they nearly all remember mine. I would wager that my birthday is one of the most memorable things about me, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
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Her pixie mouth leaves a half-moon
of pale flesh exposed on tender ruby skin.
Bittersweet juice coats her lips like honey,
glossy sheen in sunlight.
The tip of her tongue wipes clean the evidence
while her fingers clutch the fruit, round,
nearly-whole, weighing down her palm
until it slides & hits the dirt: thunk.
The garden alights as though a sepia filter removed.
For the first time, her pupils dilate
& take in her world: no filter.
Joanna Kowalski bet Davey Harris that he wouldn’t drive through the Green Man’s Tunnel for ten bucks, and I said I’d drive both of them for twenty bucks and a kiss from Joanna. So, the three of us piled into my mom’s station wagon, Joanna beside me, singing along to the oldies station Mom left on and Davey behind us without his seatbelt. The siren to start trick-or-treating blared outside as I backed out of the driveway. My little brother, Mitch, ran down the front steps in a sheet dragging on the ground. His plastic pumpkin basket sailed behind him as he rushed, my dad hot on his tail.
“It’s not dark though yet,” Joanna said, whining from the back of her throat. She sounded a bit like my cat the last time she was in heat, right before she chased the neighbor’s poodle and tried to hump it.
“What’s it gotta be dark for?” I hit the brakes to keep from killing two pirates, a pumpkin, and an angel.
“Are you kidding me?” Davey stuck his head through the two seats. He turned and grinned my way.
I flicked on my signal and turned smoothly onto the main road, the wagon’s engine roaring and clicking.
“Do you even know what we’re doing?”
“Driving through some tunnel out in the park that everyone’s chicken to do.”
Joanna snickered. “You’re telling me,” she said slowly, “that you don’t know what happens when you go out there? To the Green Man’s Tunnel?”
I shared a look with Davey through the rearview mirror. “All I wanted was money for some smokes, and to get out of this trick-or-treating bullshit. I would-a-had to follow Mitch around. Did you see him? Wearing a sheet. Dumbest thing I ever seen.” I also wanted a kiss from Joanna.
She let out a breath like a whistle. “Pull over when we get in the park.”
“Where?” Davey slapped the headrest of my seat, and I jerked the wheel. “Stop it, you jag-off.”
He laughed. “Bet you don’t even know where the tunnel is.”
“Somewhere in the park.” There were lots of tunnels. I had almost hit a pick-up head on driving out of one of them on my way to a church picnic I had to go to. Idiot was going too fast, and I swerved out of the way, driving across some guy’s neatly cut grass. Glad he didn’t see me do it, either. He would-a been pissed if he was anything like my dad. Can’t even look at the grass when he’s done mowing it.
Davey sat back and pulled the strap of his seatbelt and let it go. The metal clanked against the window with a snap. He still didn’t put it on. “Pull over up here at the BMX track.”
Joanna got out of the car and slid a thin cigarette from the crushed pack in her pocket. “Either of you got a light?”
I flicked her my Zippo over the hood. She fumbled it and the lighter scraped the rocks. “Ah, hell, Joanna.”
“Sorry.” She spoke through the end of the cigarette and cupped it to light. “Go on, Davey. He needs to hear about the Green Man.”
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I’m an exploratory writer. Which means that I write without a plan.
Basically, I get an idea or a character or sometimes even just a first line and then I start writing. The story unfolds itself. The characters tell me what they want to do and where they want to go. The book opens up in front of me as though I’m reading it and not writing it. It’s a wonderful exercise in imagination and stamina.
I love that I write this way because it means I don’t get bored. I’m also not constraining myself to a plot that’s already been mapped out. In fact, I find that if I plan ahead, I have more trouble writing. It’s like because I already know the story and the ending, I don’t need to write it down. But if I don’t know what’s going to happen next, then I can put pen to paper and find out.
I know that not everyone writes like I do. Not everyone understands how I can write like this. I get it.
It would be wonderful if I could map out a story, draw up an outline, know how to get from point A to B to C and arrive comfortably at an ending. Instead, I write in circles, have multiple missteps, tend to get “blocked” when I don’t know what to do next, and — the worst of it all — don’t always tell a narratively cohesive and developmentally growing story.
But the problem is – if I did all that planning, I’m not so sure I’d want to write at all. That’s not what writing is about for me. It’s about exploration. It’s about movement. It’s about finding out what happens next.
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Women weep across the pages of the Old Testament;
tear drops smear letters like kohl lines their eyes.
Cries for barren wombs, ungrateful sons, daughters
sold to hard-hearted men, stolen infants, tented days
of uncleanliness, dead-ends, still-births, prostitution,
sacrifices gone out of control.
Thousands of years
pass and today women’s tears still stain open Bibles,
the saltiness blurring words and promises of red-letter
text. Addictions to pills, alcohol, depression, affairs,
empty stomachs, young girls yearning to grow up
too soon, rebellious children, difficult in-laws, broken
vows echo those still-same sobs of our foremothers.
We live now as sisters in spirit, love, and grace.