Sunday, July 29, 2012

Feather Child

Feather Child 1 - Lucy Glendinning

                                                            "Feather Child"

He promised that it wouldn’t hurt.

I said yes. Of course I did. What mother wouldn’t want to give her child wings?

There had been flaws in the process before. Wax was a lightweight medium, and a sacred one, but prone, too prone to melting. You know the story of the boy who fell from the sky.

That would not be my son, I swore it.

Has there ever been a mortal who swore anything, who did not hear the gods laugh as the vow was made?

Feathers do not grow from underneath the skin of human children, nor do wings burst through their back. Feathers must be placed in their new home, anchored in skin, fed by the blood that runs beneath.

He promised that it wouldn’t hurt.

But I heard my son, my child, weep as the feathers were set in place. Not with wax, but with words. Fiat. Made flesh. I hardened my heart, because this is what was must do, if we want our children to fly. We must be hard. We must hear them weep, and not dry their tears.

Becoming hurts. Growth does not come without pain. Still, I am weak, and I turned away. I did not watch.

When it was finished, the inventor called me back in. Something had gone wrong, he said. Not with the process, no, that had worked perfectly. My son was covered with feathers. He was beautiful. He was dead.

Curled in against himself as he had been when I carried him, this was a birth that had gone still. There would be no flight. Forever earthbound, he would not go any nearer the sun. There is only even one ending to this.

He promised that it wouldn’t hurt.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When our monsters save us

There is something that does not like an ambitious woman. Think about it: in Macbeth, Lady Macbeth doesn't kill anyone. Macbeth does. Yet when the monster in the play gets discussed, it is Lady Macbeth, and her overwhelming, unfeminine ambition, that is the monstrous thing. She prays to be unsexed, but it is because of her sex that her focused wanting is such a horror.

I have been thinking a lot in the past month about women and ambition and art. It was this post, from Sarah McCarry, that started it. She writes:

"When you are a woman or a girl or female no one says to you Look, artists who are great take without asking and take and take and do not apologize because when you are a woman or a girl or female the only thing you are supposed to take is a lot of other people's shit. No one says to you Be sure you are strong enough to take and not apologize and keep going when the taking leaves you nothing to go back to. Be sure you are strong enough to steal and live alone with what you've chosen to make yours."

And that's true. We, we women, we're taught to be polite. We're taught not to take the last cookie on the plate, even if we want it, because wanting is greedy and bad, and it will make you fat, the wanting, and so better that the cookie be thrown away than you eat it. Someone else should have it. Don't be selfish. 

Don't be selfish. Don't be that girl who wants to be the class president, because they will make a movie out of that wanting because oh, my God, can you imagine how weird it is to want something, if you're a girl. It's okay to be voted Miss Congeniality. You can want to be liked. But God forbid you ever say you want to be the one who wears the crown.

There is this post, too, written by Nova Ren Suma, in response to Sarah McCarry's post. It talks about the way you have to put your life into the shape you want it to be, in order to get the things you want. Nova talks about being a writer, and she says:

"I’m everything I always wanted to be—because I only ever wanted this one thing. And I’m also a bit of a monster, because when you have only one thing, you have quite a lot to lose."

But in the rest of the post, she talks about the fact that there are sacrifices to get there. That we make the choices, we ambitious women who value our art, to turn ourselves into monsters.

I am fine with those choices. If this is what being a monster is, I choose the monstrous.

Because there is also this post, from Megan Kurashige. And it talks about how ambition, the desire to create something, something huge and strange and maybe impossible, can save you. And that is true, too. Desire is the engine of the story, and the desire to create is perhaps the most powerful ambition of all.

And even there, we women are a problem. We are not supposed to want that room of our own to write in. We are supposed to be the muse, who brings the story to the person, the man, best equipped to write it. We are supposed to pose for the painting, then slide, consumptive, into the footnotes of history. To be looked at, but never to be the abyss that stares back.

But I want. I want to create, and I am ambitious enough to want to create something extraordinary, and to not want to bow and apologize beneath the weight of that desire. That desire has made me who I am.

And I will be a monster, if that is what the wanting makes me.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Coming colors in the air

This was in the park where I usually walk my dog this morning:

There is not, in the normal course of things, a brightly painted piano in the park. It is no longer there, vanished back to wherever such things manifest from.

I like to imagine that, as it is played, the colors pour in great splashes of paint, on the ground. That bubbles of notes - cerulean and yellow, viridian and white - float into the sky. A symphony of color.

Then, when the song is over, the colors fade with the echoes, leaving grass and stone and tree unmarked. Unless you sing, just under your breath, the right song.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


The rain silvered the streets, and slid from the roof in ribbons. Beneath, a market full of treasures. Basil that is sweet, and basil that I buy because of the name: holy. Who does not love a blessing stirred into food? Aubergines, in shades as beautiful as their name, and the percussion of the rain on the roof.

I walk further in, and tomatoes of pale green and the gold of the hidden sun and red red red are laid out like stone on jeweler's velvet. The man who gives them to me pulls my hand to his wrinkled face, and leans his cheek against the backs of my fingers, then smiles, and tells my my hands are wise. There is kale, deep green and wrinkled with secrets.

I try a thin slice of apple, so perfectly balanced between sweet and tart and then I am under a tree at the end of the day, sharing the first green apples of the season with my pony, gorging until I am sick, but I will not walk out from the dappled shade under the branches, will not put her back into the barn and close the door on her fleet-footed grace.

The rain slides between everything, swirling and eddying in the detritus of the market, splashing over the feet of small children who laugh, and jump one more time before stepping out of their puddles.

There are tart cherries, the platonic ideal of red, blood under glass, and surely this is also the red that dragons' eggs are, just before they hatch. Blueberries, and they taste like the last hours of evening, like the sky at midnight, and I would give half my kingdom and my hand to the person who would bring me night in a berry for a year and a day.

Then flowers, an exploding riot of color, and the sun cracks open the sky.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Time and time again

We label time. We call it seconds, minutes, days, years, and we call it those things so we know it's not all happening at once (though I am sure there is a model of the universe that sets those things upon each other in layers, and that there, every thing that has happened will happen is happening all at once and continuously. This comforts me.)

We memorize dates when we are younger and in school, and we tell ourselves that this means we know our history, which is false, of course, because the ability to rattle off a set of dates has nothing to do with knowing history, and less to do with understanding it, but those memorized lists are the boxes we put things in. 

Time, I think, does not like being put in boxes.

I have been reading a lot of journals and diaries recently. Usually, the entries are dated. Sometimes those dates even correspond to the events that are being described. But the thing I really find interesting about reading a journal entry, is knowing the history, the time, on either side of it. Then there are those layers again, the things that happened before and after. And because my training is in literary analysis, because I am a writer, I look for the pattern. I look for the symbolism and archetypes that exist in a life lived, and sometimes they are there. Sometimes time is happening all at once, even as it cannot be. And I know the ending only if I know where the writing has stopped.