What She Read

I have bits of poetry scribbled on random Post-Its, To-Do lists and notebooks throughout my house, and yet I can’t seem to put any of them together. While I wait for inspiration to make another visit, I have been reading. I used to be an avid bookworm, but parenting and work consumed much of my intellectual energy, and I found myself mindlessly scrolling through my phone at night rather than doing anything of value. Now that things have settled into a more reliable routine, I’ve been able to dust off my Goodreads account! I’m 28 books into my goal of 50 for the year, and I thought I would share my 5 favorites. (And then, if you’re curious, perhaps I can share the 5 I liked least!)

Avenue of MysteriesAvenue of Mysteries by John Irving

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Perhaps the most touching Irving book I have ever read (which says something, because Owen Meany broke my heart!) This is an unorthodox story of faith, relationships and unconditional love from the unlikeliest of people. Highly recommend.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham LincolnTeam of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thoughtful, comprehensive and impeccably written narrative of the man who steered our nation through its most turbulent times. Lincoln’s compassion, wisdom, political savvy and literary acumen made him an indispensable leader. I learned so much from this book and find myself wanting more.

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship EssexIn the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the true story that inspired Moby Dick; however, whereas Melville’s novel ends with a monstrous sperm whale attacking a whaler, that disaster marks the beginning of the ill-fated Essex whaler and her crew. Containing all of the hallmarks of a nautical catastrophe in the nineteenth century, the book relays in graphic detail the realities of starvation, dehydration, and the struggle to choose between one’s conscience and one’s chance for survival. It is a haunting portrait of man’s obsession with the beautiful, mysterious, dangerous and unpredictable ocean. Humans are made to live on land, not water, and yet our souls somehow long for it, despite the peril lurking below.

Screamfree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your CoolScreamfree Parenting: The Revolutionary Approach to Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool by Hal Edward Runkel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not a screamer, but I definitely have my (many) moments when I’m helplessly wondering what I could possibly be doing wrong as a parent because my sweet pea simply won’t listen. It was helpful to have this reminder of being a role model for the adults I want my children to become, versus focusing on getting my children to conform to standards. Runkel doesn’t say to let them run wild; on the contrary, he stresses the importance of space, boundaries and consistency. The goal of parenting, though, is to raise adults who will go off on their own, so consider the values and principles you want to instill. SUPER helpful and I have a feeling it will be read more than once!

The Traitor's Wife: The Woman Behind Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray AmericaThe Traitor’s Wife: The Woman Behind Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray America by Allison Pataki

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting take on the strategic influence Peggy Shippen had on her husband, Benedict Arnold. Peggy reigns over Philadelphia society and is in love with John Andre–the handsome British soldier who is dispatched to New York. Despite her allegiance to the Crown and the luxuries it endorses, she marries war hero Arnold. Although nearly twice her age and struggling with an injured leg, Arnold offers the promise of wealth and popularity. When the colonial government fails to give Arnold the accolades and recognition she feels he is due, Peggy cunningly convinced him to betray Arnold to the British (in large part, it is suggested, because of her continued infatuation with Andre.) All in all, a fun read that wraps up a bit too nicely.

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Japan

Have I told you
how I accidentally ended up in Japan?
Or was it China?
It was a dream, of course.
I was on a tiny ship with friends.
I hadn’t seen them in years,
forgotten them, even.

Yet there we were,
sailing through a dark, turbulent sea
with fierce clouds.
It was odd
how steady the ship was.
Soothing, almost.
A mother
rocking her baby.

My, the sea was angry,
and beautiful.
Mesmerizing.
I wanted to stay
forever.

I had not meant to go that far.
There were meetings scheduled,
laundry to be done,
but there I was
with no choice but to wait
and to sprinkle the ashes
of my routine into the seductive,
eager hands of the waters–
as though leaving an offering
at an altar.

I don’t think it was China, either.
It was too isolated,
too quiet.
A country of companionable
solitude.
Enjoying the silence,
our nearness,
our introspection
together.

Perhaps it was Heaven.
I would believe in Heaven,
yearn for it, even,
if that was it.

But it was not Heaven,
of course,
it was a dream.

Only a dream.

The Wish

I remember the stars the most–
how bright they looked against the
black sky,
and how fiercely I wished upon them.

I remember, too, the waves as they
wrapped around my ankles.
The water was warm, and the
swell of the ocean was as
steady as a heartbeat.

As breath.

The shadows stretched innocently
across the sand,
like children.

There is a sadness to them now,
perhaps it is mine.

I was so young then–
so foolish;
I should have wished for something
better.

St. Louis, 6/25/16

The earth spins

The sun rises.

Our days are a cluttered

kaleidoscope of tasks

and chores;

the relentless drudgery

of responsibility.

But at heart we are all

travelers

shuffling through daydreams–

marching towards Possibility.

The Car Show

That summer had been particularly hot–
the humidity thick and oppressive.
Leather-skinned women with oiled bodies
sat sprawled in beach chairs,
clutching tiny battery-operated fans
in wrinkled hands with yellowed nails
stained from a never-ending chain
of cigarettes.

Even the ocean–
the hallmark for which the town was named–
offered no relief;
its abundant seaweed slowly coiling around
legs and arms
as sinister and unnerving as a serpent.

The weekend of the car show was the
hottest on record.
Out-of-towners flooded the streets,
crowding the already crowded town.

The tourists brought with them
damp body heat and a stench of sweat
acting as a siren for the rage
that had been slowly building
under the surface–
a deep crimson rising
like the mercury in the thermometer
displayed outside the general store.

Nobody is quite sure what started it,
and in the end it doesn’t much matter.
The summer had been ripe with reasons:
the heat had turned rational into irrational;
indifference into hate;
disagreements into wars.

Like a flame exposed to air, the mundane argument
rapidly spread through the crowded town center
blanketing the town with
trash from overturned bins,
shattered glass,
blood from broken noses
broken teeth
broken bodies.

Eventually, it subsided.
Loud sirens from police cars and ambulances
tore the brawlers from their anger-infused haze.
Some went to hospitals
some went to jail.
Horrified children ran home and the
leather-skinned women shook their heads
on their way back to the beach.

The abandoned cars stood out
among the rubble and disarray–
a rainbow of bright colors
serving as a brilliant contrast to the
dark mood of the day.
Their hoods had been propped opened,
showcasing immaculately manicured engines
and transmissions,
exposed like the organs of a
sliced cadaver
lying on the cold slab of a morgue.

Oscar

She was never the same–
there was a vacancy in her
enigmatic gray eyes.
Death had greedily collected
her happiness,
potential,
vitality,
along with the life of
her brother,
twin,
best friend.
She became solitary,
withdrawn.
By rote she completed
what became mundane aspects
of a previously brilliant life.
Each day spent in a fog
until nighttime
when she would go to his bed–
curled up;
as though completing a puzzle
created in the womb.

I’ve been trying to write the story of Oscar and Alphonse for two decades now, so much of this has been taken from previous attempts to describe the lives of the close, ill-fated twins. In early childhood, Oscar proved herself to be a temperamental tomboy, which earned her the unflattering nickname that would stick throughout the remainder of her life. Her brother Alphonse was gentle-tempered, frail and prone to illness. His death in their early teens permanently altered the trajectory of her life. What happens to them has yet to find its way on paper. 

 

In the room

I was in the room, breathing so softly.
Watching as she took the pins
out of her long, silky hair.
A smile on her tired face.

She kicked off her heels when
I was in the room, breathing so softly.
And she stepped out of her dress–
letting it gather in gentle folds at her feet.

There was desire in her eyes;
a coy cocking of the head as
I was in the room, breathing so softly.
An unquestionable invitation.

My love. My obsession.
She turned to him and fell into his arms,
as I slowly lifted the gun and pointed.
I was in the room, breathing so softly.

Inspired by CC to try a Quatern. It’s a little dark, even for me, but I just can’t help myself…