Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Essay: Mary Judith Ress: Facebook Photograph

Ana Changed her Profile Photo

Amid all the postings of
Welcome to the planet, Baby Betsy.
Our little Charlie takes his first step.
Bobby wears his new boots to school
My groovy tattoo of Obama


Can you believe it? Here we are in Tibet meditating with the monks.

—this one catches me up short. 
            The photo of a man and a woman—a close-up. They are not young. He’s sitting behind her and leans his head on her shoulder.  His glasses are sliding off his nose as he rests against her.  She is looking at some fixed space in the distance, her reading glasses parked on her head.  Yet I sense she feels him there. His arm is around her shoulder and she’s taken his hand.  I stare at the photo, blush and turn away, my own poverty revealed by such stark, radiant intimacy.  They are so comfortable, you see, each contained in the other. 
            Ana is my Facebook friend.  She’s a psychologist, as is her husband.  She taught me to knit. Every Monday morning as we ply the needles on our way to crafting yet another Granny quilt, we talk about sexuality, intimacy, the value of fidelity, the relief that comes with forgiving. 
            Ana’s changed her profile photo.  With one postage-stamp image, talk of defining intimacy somehow becomes superfluous. 
            “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in Thee.” I wonder if St. Teresa might have been mistaken.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tuesday Prompt: Ellen Hawkins: Feathers

If you were a peacock
you’d scream
But you’re a peahen
Sober and squat.

When your peacock screams
You match him claw for claw
then send him off ruffled and proud
while you go back to the kitchen and dirty dishes.

Is that before or after
you slip into the garden
to pick apples for a pie
you’ll share with a snake?

Friday, February 20, 2015

First Word: Mary Judith Ress: Glue


May West once said: “The glue of life is love—except if you’ve got a toothache.”

            Is the glue of life really love? Or is it money?
            In Economics 101, my initial caveat was always: “Girls, I’m here to inform you that it’s not love, but money that makes the world go round.”  Then I’d launch into how money circulates through the system, much like blood.
            How much is love tied to what the loved one has? My hairdresser is forever asking me to find her a wealthy old gringo to care for her in her old age. “Un huevón super rico, no importa si es gordo, flaco o peludo—pero rico, sí. 
            Money, I used to teach, was nothing but the means to move goods and services we all need or crave.  If you’re stranded in the Amazon or in the Valle de la Luna, no amount of money will get you that bottle of water. 
            Where does real wealth reside? In what you own—your house, your car, your diamond ring? Or is it with those you love—your children, your partner, Mum and Dad? Is it perhaps with that part of God you feel you own—He who dwells within you?
            And here we come back to May West again—the love glue is without price.
            That said, I wish I had a few more shekels to may name these days as I meander down the homestretch.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

First Word: Tessa Too-Kong: Glue

I was a child of seven when my mother launched into furniture-making in nineteen sixty-four. One of the giant samaan trees on Vlissingen Road opposite the Botanical Gardens collapsed after the long rainy season, lying indecently sprawled, roots grasping at air and its huge waterlogged corpse sloping down to the canal. 
            Samaan trees have provided shade along the canals and avenues of Georgetown for over two centuries, their wide symmetrical crowns laden with crimson flowers an integral part of the landscape. This particular one used to stand dappled with small boys who had scrambled up the hundred-foot trunk to nestle inside its extensive canopy, their small brown legs dangling like strange elongated fruit as they watched cricket on Bourda green. 
            My mother, having got the necessary permits, took a dray-cart man and her faithful yard boy Benny and got to work. The Mahaica sawmill man provided two men who travelled the forty-kilometre distance to Georgetown with their double-handed saw. They sawed the thick trunk by hand in a see-saw motion into about half-a-dozen neat slices, circular to oval in form following the silhouette of the bark, and ranging from the largest at a little over a metre in diameter to the smallest, half-a-metre wide. An old, retired joiner who lived opposite on the village green in Cove and John in front of the cricket ground, and who had built the railway carriages and highly-polished display cases for the museum, agreed to sand and hand-polish the slices into tabletops.  These she proceeded to have made into tables, with iron feet for the heavier or guava-tree legs for the smaller. Finally, she did thirty-seven in all, from five different trees fallen in front of the Parade ground and the then Minister of Agriculture’s official residence which later became Guyana House. 
            The tables festooned our living room, bedrooms and galleries, polished and glazed and glued so that the rough bark, radial patterns, whorls and mosaics could be displayed. They ended up in all corners of the world, given away to friends who liked them. She seems to have only one left, a giant slab that lives in the drawing room. I must ask her to whom she intends to give it, although the mind baulks at how to get it to Chile. I remember glue, but it was probably polish that stuck to my fingers when I surreptitiously caressed the luminous surface to trace the years of rain and drought during which the mellow samaan tree had overlooked the cricket grounds, the old man of the city who would have gone forgotten had it not been for my mother.

Monday, February 16, 2015

First Word: Pamela Yorston: Glue

Glue is made of dead horses.  At least, in novels, when the horse breaks a leg and has to be put down, they send it to the glue factory.  I have a vague feeling they use the hooves.  If so, what happens to the rest?

            As a child, I loved salami, but my father said it was made of horse meat, which in the Argentine is paramount to eating rat.  ‘Meat’ in the Argentine always means cow.  You have: chicken, pork, lamb and meat.
            I think back to those days.  I’m sitting on the bottom step of the staircase; I can hear the soft hiss of the pressure cooker in the kitchen and faint snatches of tango coming from the kitchen radio. Isabel, the maid, is hoovering upstairs.  Abruptly, she switches off the hoover, and its noise slowly dies.  She picks up the phone.  I know this because I can hear her dialing: Trrrrck, tic tic tic tic.  Trrrrck, tic tic tic tic tic.  She’s calling the butcher, as she does every day.  It’s ten thirty and she will expect delivery by eleven.  She orders steaks.
            “Are they tender?  Fresh?  Are you sure?”
            She goes through the same ritual every morning.  We eat steak every day of the week.  Steak and boiled potatoes, because that’s what she likes.  My mother hates boiled potatoes but she’s not present.  She has her nose in a book and is drinking endless cups of tea.  Isabel carries on as usual.
            When I get married - I always preface my resolutions this way – 'when I get married', we will never eat steaks.
            And we never have.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tuesday Prompt: Ellen Hawkins: Roadkill

In between arriving at the bus stop and phoning my boss to say I’d be late, I was sideswiped by four bikes, an old lady on a scooter and a man in a wheelchair heading for heaven in a hurry. Lunatics, every one of them: lunatics on wheels. They’re all out there these days, bent on mayhem if not outright war. Helmets down against the blazing sun and flicking on their I-phones, cyclists dodge about like go-karts, mounting the pavement, lurching back onto the road, passing buses with only inches to spare then shooting across the intersection the minute the light changes. How they don’t all end up as road kill beats me.
            As if that weren’t enough, now the illustrious Municipalities have decided that bikers need their own paths and blow me, without any widening of the streets city workers have been painting blue lines and installing brick-sized concrete lane separators, which has only further encouraged the speed demons.  It’s not that I don’t like bikes or vans or people, it’s that if you put the whole lot together in a narrow corridor heading downhill, what you get is pandemonium, not order, a situation especially dangerous for pedestrians, the most likely losers.  Cars are great for those in a hurry, and bikes are cleaner, greener and good for your health, but if your heart’s desire is to roam on foot, well, you better don some armor because, like wildlife, you’re fair game.