Wednesday, November 26, 2014


When she got home from the funeral, she cleaned.
She folded laundry, washed dishes,
Put books back on shelves.  She made the bed.
She filed important documents, put
Family photos in protective plastic covers.
She pulled dried and wilted vegetables from
The refrigerator, stuffed them into the
Compost bin. She got on her knees,
Scrubbed sticky spots from the floor.
She wiped grime off the sink, scrubbed
The toilet with a toothbrush.
She washed three layers of paint
Off the walls. She exposed rebar.
She scrub-brushed the bathtub until
The enamel melted away, and there was just

When she got home from the funeral, she messed.
She stripped the blankets from the bed, twisted
Them, threw them on the floor. She pulled
All the clothing from the closet, spread it
Over the bare mattress. She poured
Honey on the countertops, sprinkled them
With dry oatmeal. She put books in the oven.
She pulled dried and wilted vegetables
From the refrigerator, dropped them in
Crumbs onto the floor. She spread the
Tangled hairs from her comb over the sink
And toilet seat. She smeared pink
Stomach medicine on the walls.
She piled junk mail and telephone books
And shoes into a seven-foot barricade
Blocking the door.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Angry Fun for Ladies

Angry women should put on boxing gloves
To show how angry they are.
Boxing gloves symbolize pugilism,
Bellicosity, aggression, signal to your
Opponent that you are not afraid of confrontation.
Nay, that you invite it.
If you don’t look pretty enough with black
Against your face, no worries.
There are pink gloves for ladies.
In the biggest size they are quite
Flattering, making your lower arm look
Small and thin and dainty.
Pose with your boxing gloves, up
By your face. Make a grrr-face.
Really go for it, grrrrrr.
Wrinkle your nose like a hungry bunny.
Grrrrrrrrrr! How tough you are!
(Don’t worry, you don’t have to actually
Punch anybody to enjoy the toughening
Effects of boxing gloves.)

Also you could wear hand wraps with a bikini.
Hand wraps with a bikini is super sexy. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Eating Machine

Every day, during Carla’s twenty minutes of focused meditation, she thought about what she wanted to eat. Steaming bowls of noodles would appear in her supposedly clear mind, little bits of grilled meat on them, long strings of green vegetable. Fudgy dark brownies with mint-chocolate chips. The crisp brown edges of roasted potatoes. It didn’t matter if she meditated before she ate, after she ate, during fasting, right after a heavy meal. She always thought about food. It was like the meditation cleared all the extraneous clutter from her mind, and what remained was this purest need, this lust, this hunger. It was like, laid bare, in its purest, truest form, her mind was nothing but an eating machine.

That was depressing.

And so, as she meditated, she would pray: I wish I could stop being obsessed with food. I wish I could focus on important things.  Work. Art. Helping others. Anything but hamburgers, pies, omelets. Anything else.

And then, one Monday morning, when she got to work, she didn’t want her muffin. She had bought two of them at the bakery yesterday, beautiful cranberry muffins with a crust of sugar over the top. She had been so proud of herself for saving the second one, a treat for the first day of the week. But now, when she opened the greasy brown bakery bag, the smell made her feel kind of sick.

That doesn’t smell healthy at all, she thought. Which was a totally out of character thing to think. She liked to eat healthy and everything, but breakfast didn’t count. She would eat five muffins if she let herself; healthy was sticking to just one.

She took it out of the bag, set it on a napkin, tried to make herself admire its beauty. It had that nice crunchy sugar on the top, the bumpy cranberries popping through the surface. Objectively, she could tell, it was a nice muffin.

Just eat it, she told herself. Eat it fast so it’ll be over with.

She couldn’t get herself to start. She stood up, stretched, paced around the little office kitchen. Rifled through a newspaper someone had left on the counter.

Eat the muffin. Do it. Just start eating it.  It will be easier once you get started.

Okay, she could do this. It was just a muffin. She ate muffins like three times a week. She’d never had any problems before. She sat down at the table, pulled the muffin in front of her, broke off a piece.  Put it in her mouth, chewed. See. Not so bad.

She felt a wave of drowsiness wash over her. Bordom. She stared out the window, watched a cloud block the sun, expose the sun, block the sun again.


She stood up, paced the perimeter of the kitchen again, looked a different part of the newspaper. At this rate, it was going to take her an hour to finish the muffin.  Maybe she should just skip it. Maybe she could eat it later, in a few hours, after she had done some work.

She flipped a page in the newspaper, and there she saw the most beautiful picture. It was of a doctor in central Africa, treating villagers with malaria. The doctor was a pretty young woman in a headband and a white lab coat, kneeling at the side of a young boy in a hospital bed. He looked sick and sweaty; she had a warm smile. Under the picture, the caption read, “Compassion for Africa’s Poorest Children.”  The words sent a chill up her back, a needy shiver.

I want to help people in Africa, she thought. Which was crazy. She was a graphic designer. There was nothing she knew how to do that would help anyone in Africa in any way.

She flipped the paper closed so she couldn’t see the picture anymore. Went back to the table, sat, ate another bite of muffin. It tasted like white flour. Also like butter and sugar. Fats and oils and powders. She wondered if there was something she’d like better to eat—maybe yogurt? Oatmeal? But the thought of sitting still, shoveling creamy glop or oaty glop into her mouth seemed like the most tedious kind of chore.

Africa, she thought.  Go help people in Africa.

Mindlessly, like a machine, she rose. Walked to the counter, opened up the newspaper and stared in hunger at the photograph.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Death wasn't what he expected. As it began to creep over him, to take over his consciousness, to shut down the systems of his body, it caught him off guard. From the outside, it had always looked like falling asleep. He knew that's what it looked like with him, too, because he couldn't keep his eyes open. His head was falling towards his chest and his limbs wouldn't move. He would try to look at the nurse. She was pretty, and when he first got to the hospital he had felt sad to recognize that she would never, ever flirt with him or find him attractive. For the past past few days she sat over him and spoon fed him watery jello that each day was more like water and less like jello. She would call his name and he would think about women calling his name and how he liked that. She would put the spoon in his mouth, leave the jello water behind. And now he couldn't swallow anymore and he could see it was causing her some amount of distress. Larry, she would say. Larry. I need you to swallow. I need you to. She would put her hand on his arm, his arm that he could feel was starting to disintegrate from the inside like a plant with rotting roots. And yet that touch was exactly like the first time a woman had touched him, startlingly the same feeling, the teenage thrill of a girl's hand on your body, of her smell as she leaned in towards you. And her words, whispered near his ear. Larry. I need you to eat. I need you. Eat. It drove to his body into something like an orgasm - a deathgasm maybe- a deep shuddering in his tissues. A new, different energy coming in to replace the lost one, the one rotted out.That new energy was building within him, clearing out the old, the worn and rotten. His lungs were choking, but with each cough he grew new lungs. With each bite he spit back up, he could feel all that was heavy and earthly discarded. He could hear the nurse letting out little sad noises - this must be a different day by now, wasn't it? Little coos, clucks, startled ohs. He wanted to tell her - sweetheart. Do not worry about me. Do not worry about the coughing and spitting up. Just put your hand on me and call me Larry again. Larry, Larry, eat, Larry. Speak his name as the old useless energy fell away and the new clean energy moved in. He thought: it is much less like dying and much more like being born.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Smell of Burnt Almonds

He squirmed in the hard, gray chair. Everything in this office was hard and gray. The walls, the chairs, the shelf. Even the woman sitting across from him.

“It’s about this thing that happened.” He looked at his right hand, explored it with this left hand like it was an unknown object. “When I was a kid.”

He looked up at her. She was sitting, watching. He looked back down at his hands.

“The world kind of—” He pulled on his middle finger. The knuckle popped, a loud crack.  “It kind of split open I guess.”

She was still just looking at him. Her face was thin and drawn, but her eyes were enormous.  She looked like one of those aliens from a movie.

“And it was like I could see the whole meaning of the universe. Not see it. I mean, I was it.”

He wished she would ask a question or something.

“I guess my whole life, I’ve been trying to see that again.”

That was it. He was done. He looked up, but she still wasn’t saying anything. Just watching him with the giant eyes. Maybe this hadn’t been a good idea. His friend had told him about the psychic, about how she could heal anything broken in your energy field. It had seemed worth a try. He had been feeling desperate lately, like if he didn’t get this fixed, he was going to have to go somewhere, leave his family, get out. Wander.

“So that’s what I want you to help me with,” he said.  

The woman—Linda was her name but it didn’t seem to fit—frowned, closed her eyes. Ran her bony fingers over her forehead. Then she opened her eyes again, pointed them at him.

“It’s not the vision that matters,” she said. “It’s the truth you understood from the vision. That’s what you’re trying to get back to.”

“Yes,” he said. “That’s right. How do I get back to it?”

“The truth is the truth of what you are. The truth that this world is an illusion of your perceptions. The truth that there is no you.”

She waved her hand across the room. The gray hand, gliding over the gray backdrop, gray on gray on gray. The air was gray, too. The air was the color gray. He could see the air, the space that separated him from her, and it wasn’t space at all. It was full, it was matter, it was gray. Her hand was on his wrist, but it wasn’t her hand and it wasn’t his wrist. They were both part of the gray air, their hands, their arms, their organs, their minds. It was a soup, an undefined soup of matter and energy that extended past their bodies and out of the room and out to the far edges of the universe.

Then something moved and she was back in her chair, and he was back in his. He couldn’t see the air anymore. Just a void between him and the gray walls and the gray chairs and the gray shelf. A void between him and the woman with the big eyes sitting across from him.

“That was it,” he said. Exactly it. That was the thing he was looking for. There so completely for a moment, then so completely gone. “So you can help me. Please, can you help me find it?”

She shook her head. Strands of hair floated like gray straw.

“No one can help you find that,” she said.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Best, Okay, Worst

These are the best things:
Cat purrs.
Green hills in winter.
The first cup of tea.
Dry sweatshirts over cold sweaty arms.
Middle school jazz band.
The sky when it’s pink or very bright blue.
Pie instead of lunch.
Eating toddler food
With your best friend and her toddler.
Falling down laughing at jokes
You won’t remember tomorrow.

These things are okay:
Alarms to get you up in the morning.
A job. A car. An apartment.
Keeping on top of things.
Being resilient.
Having a strong body.
Knowing that things will work out somehow.
Emergency planning.

These are the worst things:
Routine tests.
Gossip, addictions, lust.
Breaking things.
Moving away.
Moldy forgotten apples.
The need to eat.
Lack of knowledge.
How time only goes in one direction.
The infiniteness of space.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Internet Addicts Anonymous

My name is Karin, I say,
And I am addicted to the internet.

They all nod, encouraging.
Some sympathetic frowns.
Some knowing smiles.

Welcome Karin, says their leader,
In tinted glasses, ugly white sneakers,
No hairstyle, no makup.

You are in a safe space, she says. Everyone,
Let’s welcome Karin to the Oakland chapter
Of Internet Addicts Anonymous.

Welcome, Karin, they say in unison.

So, Karin, the woman says. Tell us everything.

I gulp, calm my racing heartbeat.


Go on, she says. We’re not going to judge you.

I can’t even imagine where to start.

Tell us what you look at, says the woman. You know. When you go on the internet.

Well, sometimes I look at recipes. But like, recipes I’m not ever going to make.

Oh, that sounds like a horrible waste of time, says the woman. What else?

Well. Sometimes I google my ex-boyfriends.

Of course you do. It’s okay. Let it all out.

And then I find out who their new girlfriends are. And I google them, too.

Nothing too shocking there, she says. What else? What are you most ashamed of.

Sometimes. Okay, sometimes I go on facebook and I just scroll up and down, up and down. I can do that for hours.

What are you looking for, she asks.

I don’t know. Anything. Just anything at all. Something that will make me feel--I'm not sure what.

Good, says the woman. What else?

The woman is excited now, face flushed, speech quick.

Shoes, I tell her.  I look at shoes.

Shoes, says one of the people in the circle. And another one, under her breath: shoes. They are leaning in, intent like the leader woman, eyes wide and frantic.

I look at people wearing cute shoes!  Cute shoes with cute socks! I could look at people wearing shoes and socks all day!

One of the people in the circle falls off her chair. Another is panting loud like a dog.

STOP! The woman yells, waves an accusing arm over the circle. I think you are experiencing VICARIOUS INTERNET PLEASURE.

Everyone in the circle gasps, denies it. NO, NO, NOT US! We are just being supportive!

One woman says, Tell us what the shoes look like.

I’m turning off the lights, says the leader. When she does, a few tiny screens float in the darkness.

PUT YOUR PHONES AWAY, she yells!  Close your eyes. Quickly, we must meditate!

The sounds of rustling fill the room, squirming noises, small whimpers.

Close your eyes and be calm, says the woman, who does not sound calm at all. Take deep breaths through your nose and clear your mind.

Tell yourself: there is no internet.

There is no facebook.

There are no.