Sunday, April 30, 2006

In This World, The World To Come

I've only attended one baby shower in my entire life. I was twenty years old, and my friend Angela Dawn had her first child, Galena. The shower happened a couple months after the birth. I hadn't intended to stay at the baby shower, of course, having shown up in brown short shorts and a sweater with stripes on it, trying to look like Twiggy or Edie Sedgwick, but instead I looked like an emaciated version of Charlie Brown. My friend Tim was along for the ride, and I had a baby gift (a Snoopy blanket -- the kind of impractical present that women without children give at these events). When we arrived, all the girls were in their summer dresses eating snacks and playing games that involved diaper pins. Angela looked beautiful -- thin and tall with even larger breasts than usual (a benefit to having kids) and insisted we stay. I had nowhere to be (my summer lifeguarding job didn't start for a couple of days) so we did.

Angela let me hold Galena saying, "Here's someone who hates babies even more than Mommy." Then she pulled me aside and said, "Never have one. It's more horrible than anyone tells you." She said many more things, including a detailed description of her episiotomy. I scooted away from her and tried to engage in small talk. But that's not something that happens to me. An old aquaintance of mine named April looked dazed and rightly so -- her brother had held their mother and her third grade class hostage with a shotgun for a few hours the year before (it was one of those "perfect" family deals -- everyone always seemed so together and clean and well-behaved) and she told me about being on Prozac and getting married soon. To a man with the last name of, I kid you not, Loony. "I'm going to be a Loony, Michelle," April said. "Of course, I'll have to get off the Prozac to have a baby. That's going to be hard. I'm totally out of it," she finished. I hadn't asked anything to anybody at the shower save for "How are you today?". It was to be my one baby shower (although I didn't know it then) and for once, I was trying to be normal, the kind of person who enjoys a good finger sandwich, despite my horrible get-up. I guess I'm the kind of person destined never to hear the words fine, I'm doing just fine as an answer to any question.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"I have lots of ideas -- none of them good." Jack Nicholson in The Shining

Off the Prozac

2 ozs. golden rum
iced Dr. Pepper
1/2 lime

Serve with ice. Put Dr. Pepper into the glass with ice after the rum and lime.

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in California Quarterly:

In This World, The World To Come

We didn’t notice the reliefs until we
were leaving, each station of the cross
in gold, a gold like love, that fever dream,
or grief, stretched out, fluid, big loss
seeping in slow strokes. If we were
to follow this until the end, Jesus
would be laid in the arms of his mother,
and we could ask for anything we wanted,
the wish at the thirteenth station never
denied. Would we want for anything?
Or would this be enough, that after
a great pain there is rest, consolation
in the arms of someone who, having seen
everything, cannot help but love you.

Not In My Bed

When I was about twelve years old, my grandmother's dog Pepper shit on me as I slept. I was adorned in a new pink t-shirt, one I had purchased for two dollars (an substantial sum in that time and place) at a garage sale. Pepper, a notoriously low-energy poodle (in contrast to our poodle Peppy, a hyper little thing who died at a very old age of exhaustion from trying to hump our German Shepherd), who mainly ate and slept during his tenure at our house, had managed to crawl up and perform an almost acrobatic feat to plant his feces square in the center of my back. When my father tried to wake me up, he started to yell, don't roll over, don't roll over and walked out of the room for toilet paper. My mother heard the commotion, ran in, and went into hysterics. I always thought that t-shirt looked like shit, she said. She had been against the purchase from the very beginning. My father removed the dog shit, and although I continued to loathe Pepper, I had a new respect. The dog had made his feelings known, for crying out loud. Eventually my mother posited the theory that demons had possessed Pepper and forced him to hover over my back and perform his midnight surprise. Hate, demons, a weak g.i. tract? Who knew? Evil only needs opportunity, not motive. I can still see the t-shirt that I was so proud of as I threw it in the trash, one of the first of many things that I have bought with great hope and abandoned for dead when it became clear that nothing good could come of it.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"It is the dangerous hour of clear understanding." Colette

Blended Comfort

2 ozs. blended whiskey
1/2 oz. Southern comfort
1/4 cup of thawed frozen peaches
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1 1/2 ozs. lemon juice
1 oz. orange juice
1/2 cup crushed ice
1 slice lemon

Put all ingredients except the ice into the blender. Pour the delightful concotion over the ice.

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Curbside Review:

Dubbed in Korean With Japanese Subtitles

Once a week, a few of my ex-boyfriends
would rent Kung-Fu movies, drink beer.
They were all buddies, you see, veterans
of the same war. I imagined them reliving
failed campaigns in the breaks between Bruce
Lee and Rolling Rock, my words repeated
with varying degrees of bitterness, but when
I asked a friend who also attended, he
said that they mostly avoided the subject
and watched whatever new they could find
on the racks. One night they rented a Jackie
Chan movie that was dubbed in Korean
with Japanese subtitles. Did they think
about returning it? I asked. At first, he says,
but after a few beers, they just wanted to see someone
get hurt even if they couldn’t understand why.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

All That Glitters

I've always been attracted to shiny, glittery objects (a trait I share with cats and men). My first love affair was with a tiny tree at the mall that had leaves made out of what I imagined were gold. It moved in a mystical way with every tremor, and I longed for it. I also desperately desired a hot pink sequined tube top for the same reason. These things would make me beautiful and would make my life beautiful. Years have passed, and I still see the gold trees from time to time and smile at how such a small thing could produce such want. The tube tops, well, those have gone out of style long ago, like Spandex (shudder!) or earnestness.

Those tube tops are part of the reason I became a Catholic, the way they stayed just out of my reach and for that reason became increasingly lovely. Most of my early religious experience was about stripping away all the mysticism from God, about experiencing the purest relationship with the Almighty, without the intercession of clergy or saints, without the haunting beauty of stained glass. I've always been drawn to complication and if God sees us in the same way that we see God, then Catholicism is the religion that most closely mirrors my life. Not the conservative Catholic beliefs, of course, but the way that everything from the way that the Body of Christ has a special outfit (a monstrance) and the insistence on a crucifix over a cross. Given my choice between a plain cross or one with Jesus on it, arms outstretched for all to see in that horrible final hour, His beautiful Mother at the foot of it (all the men had taken off, no surprise there), I'll take the latter, because what is love without a little blood and some thorns?

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"Your mirror, it's cracked."
"I know. It makes me look the way I feel." Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment.

Friday I'm in Love

1 3/4 oz blended whiskey
1/2 oz lime juice
1 teaspoon grenadine
lime juice

Served chilled

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in poetrybay:

The Whole Story

Sometimes I vomit in my dreams,
those silent hours during which anything
is possible. No matter. The day bleeds
into the night where we set our own limits,
rarely moving beyond the shabby confines
of the rooms we rent. Too often the answer
to the question, what’s new? really is
nothing. I want to know the whole story,
my mother would say when she suspected
I’d given her less, but there is none, only this.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Corpse Reviver

Once a childhood friend of mine swallowed a cup of crushed glass. Her mother had poured crushed ice and Dr. Pepper into her glass-lined thermos which had broken and the glass had comingled with the ice. Nothing seemed strange until she felt her insides getting cut.

For a short time this incident gave her a certain mystique, the way trauma imparts an aura to the one involved. She had to spend an entire night in the hospital! But eventually we all went back to our lives and the dramas involved, the fear we felt over all that was happening to us and around us at Robert E. Lee Middle School (if there is a hell on earth, it's middle school, particularly one named after a losing general). Years later, we looked back at the crushed glass incident and laughed because things had turned so much more serious -- drinking and drugs, abortions and accidents of the lethal sort, love and all its attendant horrors. It was enough to make drinking a glass of something that could cut you from top to bottom seem innocent.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"If the moon smiled, she would resemble you./ You leave the same impression/ Of something beautiful, but annihilating." Sylvia Plath

A Dirty Mirror

2 ozs. whiskey
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon grenadine
1 slice of lemon

Serve over crushed ice

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Oberon

How long until you don’t send a birthday card,
until you forget the date and think some time
in December, that month of such sweet
sadness that whispers to us of years past,
of hurried celebrations, the X in Christmas
when you’ve grown weary of spelling it out.
After all the presents have been revealed, what next?
You have been gone longer than you were around
and nothing changes, still the new year stretches
out like a question nobody wants to answer, all
champagne and streamers, the cheap party favors
that ruin easily and have to be cleaned up
the next morning, ordinary time slinking in,
making us wish for something to wish for again.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Please Undo Me

Someone had brought a diaper pail full of rattlesnakes over to the house again -- I don’t know how many because I ran to my bedroom and slammed the door. This was in 1976, and I was five years old and wishing that I was Nadia Comenici, scoring those perfect tens and never smiling, not even when her creepy fat-ass coach Bela picked her up and twirled her like a little doll over his head. Her life seemed good -- she’d do her thing, risk it all, and walk away.

I bet Nadia never had to deal with poisonous vipers. I hated snakes and had a stomach ulcer to prove it, diagnosed by one Dr. Kumar. I can still see his office, the chart of the human body, a pain scale, one being a smiley face, ten a frownie. I was a frownie because my mother was obsessed with snakes and made them into decorations, shaping their frozen bodies into artful poses and coating them with clear-cast, the smell of acetone all over the house. Much like the Bluebell Ice-cream slogan -- We eat all we can and sell the rest!, our house was the main repository for these creations and every spring and summer, our freezers were littered with pickle jars containing tarantulas, snakes, scorpions, and the occasional butterfly.

The week before, a big old boy named Garland brought a five foot rattlesnake on a string leash that he’d fashioned himself. I couldn’t imagine how he’d slipped it over the snake’s head without getting bit. Dumb people were lucky. My mother said that by way of explanation. Garland didn’t know that a snake that size was useless for my mother’s purposes. If they got too big, they were harder to handle and tended to explode in the acetone wash. My mother managed to coax the snake into our deep freeze (located in the garage) and place him in the wire drawer at the bottom. It didn’t die right away, of course. They never do at that size. It hibernated underneath the frozen loaves of Wonder Bread, its movements slowing way down until they became imperceptible, dead except for the eyes that told me, when I worked up my courage to peek inside, that it might still be alive.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"Some people will tell you that suffering is good for your character. You're free to believe anything." Raymond Carver

Please Undo Me

1 shot of whiskey
1 splash of sweet and sour
1 trace of tabasco sauce

To be served as a shot with a lime garnish

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Out of Line

Beauty and the Beast

You eat and think, I’m still hungry
even though you’ve finished your
plate. It takes twenty minutes
for the brain to register fullness so
you wait for a feeling that never comes.
You get ready to go out in a dress
that most others could only dream
of wearing, take to the streets, skin
as thin as a Chinese lantern, holding
the shadows that others cast. It is
not so difficult to be anything –
the beloved, the not-so-beloved,
the doctor who says, there’s nothing
more to be done. Love is a many
splendored thing, except when you’re
involved. One thing becomes another
without warning, and you are left
with the grade-school hearts fluttering,
mandatory Valentines from everyone,
most of which end up in the trash.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hell's Gate

When I was in the sixth grade, I played Delilah in a Vacation Bible School production at the local Church of Christ. I'd go every week with my babysitter, an elderly woman named Betsy, who tried to soften the experience with peppermint candy during the endless services, all without so much as a piano -- it's against the religion to have musical instruments inside the church which made the singing particularly horrific. Given my somewhat exotic looks compared to all the blondes (this was Texas in the 80s!) -- long black hair, big eyes, pale skin - - I routinely played biblical harlots, both those who were repentant and those who ended up creating more chaos. More often than not, I was the only girl in these plays who did anything that advanced the action which proved to be a useful lesson for later years.

Because I was Delilah, the youth minister cast my friend Lance as Samson even though Lance had a crew cut. We made do with a towel, a dark blue one with HIS emblazoned in gold lettering, wrapped around his head, turban-style. At the penultimate moment of the play, I would yank the HIS off Wade's head and hand it to my "brothers," Darren and Randy Trevathan, a couple of rough country boys cursed with severe overbites that earned them the nicknames of Bucky One and Bucky Two, at least until they were old enough to make people regret drawing attention to the lack of orthodontic care in their lives. I never returned to that church after the seventh grade, nor do I hear tell of the Buckys, but I imagine they are still making people sorry for pointing out the obvious.

Michelle's Spell of the Day


1 1/4 oz. tequila
1/4 of a lime
Iced club soda
salt rim
garnished with an orange slice

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Nerve Cowboy:

Hell’s Gate

From that height, the water feels like cement,
the cop told us, and we wondered how our friend
had climbed to the top to make the jump off the rock
cliffs that rose out of the lake. Our buddy had dealt
drugs for years, holding back the best, saying, I don’t
offer these to every swinging dick. We always took
what we wanted, abandoning him as soon as we could,
embarrassed by the hare-lip, afraid of getting caught.
Now divers searched for his body, swimming in a lake
rumored to be filled with man-sized catfish that would
keep getting bigger with every ounce of trash they ate.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Three's Company

As a child, one of my favorite television shows was Three's Company. Every Tuesday night we'd be allowed to watch the goings on of Jack and company. The main plot of the show seemed to be a very simple but effective one -- the wrong person was always showing up at the wrong time and hilarity ensued. My real life has not been much different except for the hilarity part, probably due to the absence of the great John Ritter (his best performance ever was in Slingblade). My friend Hank loved this plot for his fiction -- he'd go back to the idea that a character was waiting for one thing and something else showed up. For hours in college and graduate school, we'd go to the KFC buffet on University Street in Denton every Friday and work on stories and bullshit about people we knew. All writers are gossips, not in that malicious way, but as an occupational hazard. We'd come up with a lot of stuff and go home and write something completely different. We'd also make predictions for the next year for all the people we knew -- we had about a fifty percent accuracy quotient, but sometimes better. The last time I saw him, we tried to play the game, but couldn't really see anything good. Two months later Hank died after breaking his leg in several places, foiled by an orange and black ice, on his way to see The Vagina Monologues. His last email said that he'd probably get a good story out of it, and two days later he was in the hospital for an operation that resulted in his death. As Hank would often say about the real stories we told each other, You can't make this shit up.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"They can't all be winners." Billy Bob Thorton in Bad Santa

1 1/4 oz. gin
1 1/4 campari
garnish with orange peel
Strain over ice and drink in a martini glass

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in River Oak Review:

Every Day

I wake up to a museum of your
not being here. Nothing surprises
me, and yet this does. You are
as real as yesterday and tomorrow.
It is only today that presents
a problem, something they’re out
of in the kitchen. I make do
with shots of whatever’s around
to pass the afternoon. Dark,
a question that can’t be answered,
comes to bury me, and I think
of something you once said, I miss
you every single day, a simple
phrase that breaks the heart. We
are never free from each other,
living in our various rooms, maybe,
dead even, and still thinking of you.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tony Soprano, Original G

Anyone who knows me understands that Sunday night is sacrosanct because of HBO, particularly The Sopranos. Like everything I eventually love, I got into The Sopranos way after everybody else I know did. Some people blame this on my astrological sign -- being a Taurus, I'm slow by nature and stubborn and a lot of controversial people were born under this sign -- Freud, Hitler, Machiavelli, James Brown, the last two on my very birthdate. The story of how my conversion came about is a simple one involving my mother -- she loved the show and forced me to watch three episodes with her back-to-back. She was pretty sick at this point in her life, and so I did it without a fight. By the third one, I was hooked in that way crack addicts get hooked. Despite the brilliant acting by all the cast, the show belongs to James Gandolfini, aka Tony Soprano. He's the epitome of American masculinity -- troubled, doubtful, forceful, a man of divided loyalities and a divided heart. He feels from the first episode that he's come into something at a point of its decline, that he missed something more vibrant and crucial. Nothing breaks the heart like the beauty of the ruins and the way we exist among them, so fleeting in our loveliness until we become them.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"You can talk about each day's a gift and smelling roses, but regular life has a way of picking away at it. Your house, the things you
own . . . One bad idea after another." Tony at his therapist's office after getting shot by his uncle on trying to view each day as a "gift."

Tony Soprano, Original G

2 oz. pernod
4 oz. orange joice
1 slice of lime

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Rainbow Curve:

At Night, Everything Is Quiet

Shorter, cooler days were on the way, but first
Vacation Bible School, with the songs about building
your house on sand and rock, the accompanying hand
gestures about the results of such a project. I knew
a woman who built her house on a nest of copperheads.
In the evenings when the snakes were at their thickest,
she’d sit on her porch with her dog and a hoe. When
the dog found a snake, she’d pick up the hoe and chop
the snake’s head off, their decapitated bodies littering
the yard. By dark, everything was quiet and we could
pretend we were anywhere. How can you live here?
I asked one day, my mother far enough away not to yell
at me for being rude. It’s not bad all the time, she said.
It would take too much energy for me to move. Years
later, I would understand how it was to build before
you knew what lurked beneath the structure, no hope
of fight or flight, just the paralysis that comes
from keeping the danger at bay, waiting for a time
when it seemed you’d chosen well, that your house
was firm, days short enough to pretend that night
was all there was, all there would ever be.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Stage Whisper

When I was about thirteen years old, I went into a stationary store with a group of three other girls. We were looking at Garfield stickers and Snoopy pens when the owner told us he wanted to give us each a free pencil eraser shaped like an animal, one that would represent our personality. The shyest in the group got a turtle, no suprise there. I got a squirrel, an animal I'm not terribly fond of -- the last one I saw made me scream in fright, evil vixen that it was. The chunky girl got a pig, unkind perhaps, but the worst was yet to come. My friend Christine got a vulture, which I hate to say, suited her personality to a tee. She had an aura that exuded misery and persecution, but still! We each left with our erasers and despite my irritation over the squirrel, I felt lucky to be pegged as such. It wasn't a great thing, but hey, it wasn't a vulture, feeding off the dead bodies of others. I thought about that eraser episode for a long time after, the way you consider a poison gift, a back-handed compliment, something you weren't supposed to hear, stage-whispered in a loud enough voice that you couldn't miss it.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

Stage Whisper

This drink requires that you put all the ingredients in a blender and dust lightly with cayenne pepper.

1/2 cup pinapple juice
1 1/2 oz. vodka
1/2 curry power
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 dashes of Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup of crushed ice
cayenne pepper

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Karamu:

The Thing You Hate

For my last appointment of the day, I met
with a man who owned a computer store in Grosse
Pointe. Halfway through the interview, he rolled up
his sleeves and showed me his scars. "I tried
to kill myself three times last year, but I don’t
know if you’ll want to put that in the article," he said.
I didn’t. Writing part-time for a pull-out advertisement
section of the EastSide Weekly as my second job, I never
got to handle the tough issues, just ended up dead
tired at the end of the day, wanting to go home.

Earlier, I’d gotten lost looking for a car wash
in downtown Detroit where the owner ranted
about capitalists for five minutes before letting me take
pictures of the building. "You become the thing
you hate," he said while I finished off my roll, wondering
if any of the shots would turn out. I didn’t want
to come back, already late from my lunch break
at my full-time job. Now the room was getting dark,
but the computer shop owner didn’t reach for the lights;
instead, he sat at his desk, sleeves rolled up, thoughtful.

He explained that he was trying to begin again, that he’d burned
some bridges in the past, but that was all behind him. "Sometimes
it’s good to get a new start," I said, even though I don’t believe
that. I never find it difficult to lie, given the right circumstances.
"I love this job," he said and smiled, rolling down his sleeves.
"I dream about programming at night." I dreamed about deadlines
I wasn’t meeting, things I’d forgotten, the continual exhaustion of someone
always ill-prepared and worried about being found out. "Can I see
the article before it’s in the paper?" he asked. "Sure," I said, knowing
I wouldn’t have a chance to drop it by, trying to leave before it got too late.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Sex Manual

When I was almost six years old, I thought nerve endings were pieces of paper that stated whatever you thought about at that part of your body at that moment, like a constantly changing fortune cookie. My biggest fear was that I'd have a nervous breakdown and that people would be able to read my nerves. The horror! I nearly pushed myself into a panic with worry. Not only that, but I had managed to convince myself that the water tower behind our house was the meeting place of many a mad surgeon who loved nothing more than performing nerve operations out of sheer curiosity. I was kind of a morbid little thing anyway and had already written some succinct suicide notes for my stuffed animals in crayon no less. Bye-bye bad world! I had a happy childhood, but I was nervous by nature, prone to histrionics. I also had a thing for younger men -- the first boy I kissed was a year younger. It happened after a lot of intense planning and a game of Vampire, the rules of which I'm a little unclear on now, but it seemed like somebody had to catch somebody else and bare fangs. It doesn't seem that romantic now that I write it down, but at the time, somebody pretending they had pointy teeth they could sink into your neck seemed like the best thing ever.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"When love walks in the room/ Everybody stand up." Pretenders

The Sex Manual

3/4 oz white creme de cacao
3/4 oz orange juice
1 teaspoon of Galliano

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Nerve Cowboy:

Kentucky Derby Day at My Aunt’s House

Explaining why he took his girlfriend
back after she slept with his best
friend, my cousin said, I’m like Don Coyote –
I just keep charging windmills. I
tried not to laugh and resisted the urge
to correct him. Taking another sip
of my Mint Julip, I thought, You’re more
like Wylie Coyote, hammered with the same
bullshit schemes every time, but I have
been both Don and Wylie enough times
not to make the distinction. The Mint Julip
tastes sweet for a second, then the bitter
kick of bourbon. Each year our family
argues about how to make them, each
year they taste the same. It’s a tradition,
my mother says, you can’t watch the Derby
without drinking at least one. It doesn’t matter
if the mint leaves are bruised or crushed, I can’t
drink enough of other things to get the tastes
of the drink we all share out of my mouth.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Playboy After Dark

When I was in graduate school, I went to a Halloween party dressed as a Playboy Bunny. The last Playboy club had been closed for years so the costume held a retro appeal that I couldn't resist despite my strong feminist leanings. The theme of the party was to dress as a literary figure so I said I was Gloria Steinem, when she went undercover to write her expose on the working conditions of the women at the club. What I remember most about the article was that nobody could understand why someone who could type would want to work as a bunny, something that seemed glamorous, but of course, sucked like any waitress job would except even more because of the get-up they had to wear.

I'd had very little direct experience with Playboy save for the times I babysat for people who left it out on their coffee table (the height of sophistication, I thought) and never really knew Hugh Hefner as someone who wasn't already a parody of himself. To quote Hef, he says that the Playboy ideal is a woman who is "uncomplicated and clean, not a femme fatale of any sort, a woman without emotional problems." Good Lord, that's a lot to aspire to! You have to look perfect naked and not have emotional problems?! No wonder I've always preferred Larry Flynt with his "Asshole of the Month" column in Hustler. At least he got to take Jerry Falwell to task.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"Every woman is a bunny." Gloria Steinem

Playboy After Dark

1 1/2 oz brandy
1 1/4 oz Red Dubonnet
1/4 Pernod

Benedictions and Maledictions

Asshole of the Month

I never saw the famous cover itself,
only a picture of it covering the face
of a woman at a protest rally. Even
so, I could make out the beautiful
legs coming out of the meat grinder,
could read the quote -- Never again
will we hang a woman up like a piece
of meat
. The first Hustler I saw had
been discarded in the woods, not
something for show and tell at school,
but my friend and I knew it was something
boys liked, its pages stuck together after
a storm. We tried to open up the center-
fold, but all we managed to do was tear
the woman to soggy pieces, ruining something
forbidden and valuable or so we thought.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Love Hangover

What nourishes me will destroy me is my favorite Oscar Wilde quote and most famously tatooed on Angelina Jolie's stomach, it's the truth. One of my friends used to say, What I love always bites me in the ass, an interesting paraphrase. The important thing in life I think is not to flinch, no matter what the cost of whatever you want is. Of course, it's okay to hide your eyes once every now and then.

Given the nature of drinking, there's always the hard reality of the morning after the proverbial one too many, a line that's way too easy to cross over without half-trying. One of my old students and friends, Lee (who also has a great blog --, suggested I do a hangover cure to counteract the spells. I couldn't agree more.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"I spend half my life apologizing for things I've done and the other half doing things I need to apologize for." Danny Bonaduce

Ultimate Hangover Cure

2 oz. blended whiskey
1/2 egg white
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 Pernod
Iced club soda

Mix all of the ingredients together (except the club soda) and shake. Pour into a glass of soda and ice.

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Poetry Motel:


We were both looking at our hands when an epileptic
named Lawrence jumped
off the high dive and had a seizure, hitting his head on
the side of the board.
Ben dropped his cards and ran for the backboard,
knocking down
the chlorine canister we’d been using for a table, cards
all over the cement in his wake.

I’d had sex for the first time two days before, not
there would be anything more frightening happening
soon, not
wanting to see that person ever again. Calling the
from the only pay phone, hands shaking, I said,
We have a possible spinal injury, watching the other
put Lawrence on the backboard, remembering training,
pulling a weighted dummy from the deep end. Pretend
you don’t know what happened
, the instructor told us.

After it was over, nobody looked each other in the eye
as we mopped
the blood from the cement. I picked up the cards and
put them in the desk drawer,
not wanting to play any more games that day. You’ll get
used to it, Ben said,
as he set the chlorine canister upright. When it was my
turn on stand,
I closed my eyes for a minute behind sunglasses,
listening, unable to tell the difference
between the yells of the kids having fun and the ones
needing help.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Automatic Writing

A few years ago I attended a party with four guests. The host was a man I was to eventually come to detest (an occurrence as rare as Halley's Comet) whom I refer to as The Count, as in Dracula, and all the meanings that word can have -- aristocratic and blood-sucking and dressed out of Nazi Wear Daily, not to put too fine a point on it. His girlfriend was and I believe this is the clinical term, a total nut, but a beautiful one and beautiful women get a pass for that, thank God. A few drinks into what was to be a long night, she admitted that she'd lock herself in her room for days, doing automatic writing (a form of writing where you channel someone else without thought) and conjuring up Abraham Lincoln. Being the smartass I am, I wanted to ask what Abe was thinking these days, but I kept quiet as she said that her child, a seven-year old boy, worried about her during these trances and would bring her sandwiches. These are the kinds of incidents that keep the therapy industry thriving, I believe.

As the party wore on, we talked about all sorts of things, and I remembered the parties my parents used to throw in the seventies where people would try all sorts of things like seances and astral projection, a practice where you try to get your spirit to leave your body. As far as I could tell, nobody ever left their body, but as they say, it couldn't hurt to try, especially as the conversation trailed off and all the food was gone.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"I have often been driven to my knees by the conviction that there was no other place to go." Abraham Lincoln

Michelle's Mist
A mist is straight liquor poured over crushed ice.
Scotch, the better it is, the better it is.
Lime garnish

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Plainsongs:

Dream Cruise

Working on his antique car, it exploded,
and he lay suspended between life
and death for months until he woke to what
remained. Before he went deaf from the pain
medication, he’d heard a few people say,
Wouldn’t it have been better if . . . He could
finish the thought, but instead drifted off into
visions of cars stretched for miles, him behind
the wheel of his gleaming machine, the envy
of everyone sitting on the side of Woodward Avenue,
a glittering mirage that they could only glimpse
for a moment before he became indistinguishable
from all the lucky ones that were driving the same road.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Publication Promised

Years before I became a Catholic, I knew of St. Jude, the saint of impossible and desperate causes, because of the want ads. As a child, I loved to read this newspaper section and imagine all sorts of lives (two bedroom furnished apartment), jobs (I always gravitated to the Girl Friday ones because of the name -- I liked the idea of anything involving being a girl and Friday -- it seemed very festive), and of course all sorts of possessions, the cast-offs of someone's previous life. But the best section was Miscellaneous, the strange hodge-podge of the downright hopeful (If it was you I met at the corner of Main Street three weeks ago with long red hair, please call . . .) to the setting the record straight types (I am not responsible for the debts of . . . ). Every week ads for novenas to St. Jude would appear. At the end of the short novena (a nine day prayer for some specific outcome), the words Publication Promised (perhaps the most longed for wish of any writer!) would appear. So, of course, this ad would run almost every week, a love letter to St. Jude to accompany the personals. St. Jude has never failed! Want ads, sadly, are mostly a thing of the past, as current as running a mimeograph machine. I don't even get a newspaper these days because who has time to read it, except a child in a small-town dreaming of different possible lives and wondering what mysterious force never failed and glad to know hope, always a limited commodity, was always right there in those small boxes that people had paid for to advertise it.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

Kind of Blue

4 parts champagne

1 part blue curracua

garmished with a lemon

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Edgz Magazine

When The Moon Is Blue For Once

When I die, I will be bathed in blue light
and I will ask no one for anything. Take
away the pain and see what you have
left. I have never known a thing to be
anything besides itself, but sometimes
a color is a color and the other thing,
the thing you’re not saying, and well,
I won’t ask you, and the dreams
of the dead where they just won’t
stop dying, what to make of those?
devotion, love -- we do what we can,
we hope, as they say, for the best.


Happy Easter! Even in Detroit, the weather has to start to warm up a little at this point and summer is on its way. The Easter I remember the best was the one where my sister Beth and I received two plastic mouse dolls with Raggedy Ann-like hair. The dolls were ugly by all standards, but we took to them for reasons no one could understand. I named my doll Marcy and Beth got the boy mouse and named him Missy. Missy and Marcy became part of our games in no time and my favorite one was pretending the couch was a big van. I'd make Beth throw Missy off the van for being a boy and then she'd cry and want Missy back on the van. Of course, I'd tell her in my kind way that Missy was dead because of the head trauma from the fall and he was under no circumstances coming back. My mother resurrected Missy to keep the peace and told me to stop killing him. All sorts of ills were visited upon Missy -- his face marked with lipstick and eyeshadow, his bright red hair cut off. He always returned, though, a bit worse for the wear maybe, but sturdy like any good Easter gift should be.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"I don't know about you, but I could use a drink." Father Gary, after a three hour Easter Eve service during which I was baptized.

The Resurrection
1 part champagne
1 part orange juice
splash of grenadine

This is essentially a mimosa with color. This is a perfect light morning drink for brunches on Sunday after a particularly wild Saturday night.

Benedictions and malediction

First appeared in Slipstream:


Nothing is hidden here. There's
a special drain for the leftover blood
of Jesus. The bowls look like, well,
bowls, the water has not been blessed
yet. This is the chosen room where
the ordinary becomes extraordinary,
if one believes that is possible even.

Anything is possible. I once rode
in a car with tarantulas in pickle jars
rolling around underneath my feet.
Once frozen, they could take on any
form, become the center of a paperweight.
They were never to resurrect and nobody
wanted them to, their value in a death
they could not have possibly imagined.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Crystal Ball

I'm one of those people who sees everything as an omen, an auger, a portent. If I could disect animals and read their entrails, I'd be tempted. This type of fortune telling is called hermispecution. (Some women do an emotional form of this type of reading, analyzing every toss-off comment from a man as if it came down from Moses on the tablets. I, myself, have never ever done this -- ha!) As nifty as this might be, it seems, well, messy, and unfair to the family pets and so I stick with runes and fortune cookies, horoscopes, the crazy babblings from strangers on the street. My last two fortunes read -- Be comfortable with being uncomfortable -- this will be very difficult. (Um, okay) and You must change your habits for some of them are bad. (No kidding) My favorite fortune of all time was received by my friend Priscilla and it read, "He loves you as much as he can, he just can't love you very much." At the time, it made perfect sense, and we couldn't stop laughing. I'm sure anyone who has been through the torments of semi-requited love would. Real love is like a spider-bite for which there is no cure -- you live with the poisonings of it until the day you die. Like the Bible says about following Jesus -- when you love, you love totally and you do not count the cost. You look back, you see the burning cities, you turn into the pillar of salt. You need no ghost to tell you this one.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Do you believe in forebodings? Oh yes, yes, I do." Anton Chekhov

Crystal Ball
1 glass of pink lemonade
1 shot of vodka
1 shot of lime juice

To be served chilled in a bulbous glass.

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Spire Magazine:

Psychic Fair, 1981

When I was ten, a man I didn't know
told me that I had been Nietzsche's lover,
had known my mother before my birth,
that I had been her mother. He held my
hand and said, you will not always feel this
way, and I wondered how he'd known
I didn't want to. After it was over, he took
my five dollars and I walked toward my
mother and her friend. We drifted out of past
lives and into the future, toward women
would could look at the lines on anyone's palm,
believing destiny, however forbidding, could
come down to this, our own hands.

Love One Another Constantly

It's Good Friday, a day of regret and sadness, the darkest day before dawn. Years ago, I received a fifty gallon fish tank, a rectangular-shaped monstrosity that I placed on a huge bookcase. The people who gave it to me were in the middle of a divorce and neither one wanted it anymore or maybe they just couldn't bear the thought of the other one having it. Love hadn't exactly been my best friend either, so I understood. I was graduate student poor at the time and couldn't afford to put fish in it (besides, everything I touch tends towards, well, death) so I filled it with water to create a beautiful seascape. I can remember running from the kitchen to the bedroom with a large pot (my one proverbial pot to piss in -- I had three actual windows to throw it out of) and after many many trips, the entire thing was full. What next, I thought? I wanted to put something pretty in it, like rocks, but pretty rocks were costly, especially for something so big. So I bought a huge bag of sand (thinking of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico) and dumped it into the tank, thinking the sand would settle in a few hours. Three months later, I had fifty gallons of muddy water in my bedroom. As I was dumping the water back into the sink with the help of the same pot, I thought -- all mistakes should be so obvious.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"All our strength lies in the power of prayer and sacrifice." St. Theresa of the Little Flower

The 13th Station of the Cross
The drink you need the most at this moment

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in St. Ann's Review:

Love One Another Constantly

Upon entering my grandparents’ trailer, my
grandfather would take me to the master
bedroom and say, This is granddaddy’s
pistol. It can kill you. Don’t touch it. He’d
slide it back under the pillow, satisfied
that he’d made his point. No one had to say
anything twice around there. In the midst
of their everyday staples -- karo syrup, Jack
Daniels, empty cans of Old Milwaukee --
stood a small statue of St. Francis, a relic
from my grandmother’s ancient childhood --
Love One Another Constantly -- burned
into the base. Since I couldn’t touch the gun,
I’d run my finger over the words in the dark
like a blind person, thinking what if this sense
was all I had left to me in the world, not realizing
that it was, that it would be, the words carved
into wood still as clear as my grandfather’s
warning, long after the grave had taken him.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Come and Take It

Even though I had two years' worth of Texas History (one in junior high, one in high school), I don't remember it all that well, but I'm not sure it matters much. Texas, the only state that was its own country and never lets you forget it, is much more interesting in myth. I'm not much for flags, but the Texas one has always been interesting and my favorite incarnation is the one made out of a wedding dress with the inscription "Come and Take It." It had a cannon on it and followed that great tradition of Texas taunting. And special thanks to my dear friend Angela who had the slogan inscribed on a t-shirt that I wear all the time.

Texas is a hard place, full of contradictions. Having lived there until I was 26, I'm still no closer than anybody else to explaining its appeal. The best book on Texas is probably Kinky Friedman's Guide to Texas Etiquette (a gift from my friend Tim -- thanks Tim!) or anything by Molly Ivins. Almost always hotter than ten hells, you start to hallucinate when you're in the lone star state. You fall in love a little bit. It's enough to make a girl tear off her wedding dress and turn it into a flag with a message on it. After all, you only get to wear the dress once, right?

Michelle's Spell of the Day

Come and Take It
"You may go to hell. I will go to Texas." Davy Crockett

1 shot of tequila (Silver Herrudura -- as seen in photograph -- is best)
1 splash of Absolut Peppar vodka
The tequila should be room temperature and the vodka (like all vodka) should be straight from the freezer. This shot is a call to arms if there ever was one.

Benedictions and Maledictions
First published in Poet's Lore:


Maybe you don't have any stories
like, I saw Stevie Ray Vaughn at a small
club right before he died. Maybe you saw
shitty cover bands, nothing to talk about --
you'd never be able to claim anything
from this godforsaken place except that you'd
been here and it was a little scary, all that space
to lose whatever passed for your life and what
did you do with your nights? Got loaded, like
a pistol, pretended nothing could harm you,
looking for trouble, but not really, like everyone
else we know, except you were in Texas.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

How To Own And Operate A Haunted House

As a teenager, I was obsessed with throwing Halloween parties, so much so that the planning would start in August. My friend Melissa and I had access to a mess of decorations thanks to the largesse of her parents and copious amounts of strawberry-scented incense purchased at the local Piggly Wiggly. I'd throw on my scariest fortune-telling look (the fact that nobody had explained me the importance of plucking my eyebrows alone was scary enough -- the skirts with bells trailing bells and homemade shawls now seem like overkill) and come up with predictions for the future with a crystal ball and a very real-looking amputated hand that exuded oil to make it seem alive on my table. The setting for these parties was Mineral Wells (a small town on the edge of West Texas) in the 1970s. The town contained a decommissioned army base, all four poisonous snakes found in the U.S., and an old hotel that used to dispense curative waters (the Crazywater Hotel -- no, I could not make that name up) that contained lots of lithium. Movie stars in the 1930s loved that water. Who wouldn't? But as good as our haunted rooms were, we couldn't compete with my favorite Mineral Wells tradition which was the haunted house run by emotionally disturbed teenagers (that was the heading for those both mentally-challenged and/or criminally-inclined) on the old base, known as the Edgmeade Haunted House. Who thought this was a good idea, I do not know. The place itself didn't need that much help in looking haunted and the kids playing the monsters, well, they got into their parts a little too fully. Wherever you turned, there was something scarier than the last corner, which when I think about it, wasn't the worst preparation for life.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

Haunted House

Vodka shots in test tubes garnished with peeled grapes (to masquerade as eyes). Pack in ice as you would a body.

Benedictions and Maledictions

First appeared in Sulphur Springs Literary Review

Time forgets or it doesn't,
the sound of a casket closing.
Not everything that dies is
dead. Once my mother picked
up a hitchhiker, a man on crutches
wearing a black trench coat.
Nothing was wrong with him,
she said. I didn't realize it until
he was in my car, too late. I never
stop my car, but sometimes he rides
with me, his coat in a ball in the back.

A Night at the Therapy Lounge

One night in May of last year, a group of my friends (the Texas ones --Angela, Nick, Tim, Cynthia) and my sister went to see Angela's brother perform at a club in Dallas called the Therapy Lounge. I hadn't been to Deep Ellum (the area where the club is located) since my friend Hank died (we had a night on the town memorial for him the day after his funeral) and was looking forward to seeing it under happier circumstances. The Therapy Lounge is a great place, the kind of gritty bar that makes you happy that gritty bars exist. I'd never seen Brad perform live in this incarnation, which is to say his Chant project. He does a one man show on the drums which is more spectacular than anything I've ever seen. I'm relatively conservative when it comes to music, most of it culled straight from my 1970s childhood, and I am never one of those people who know the hip new bands. This said, I am certain Brad's music is this very thing, which is to say fresh and of the moment, brilliant and piercing, the kind of undertaking that excites people and makes them understand that there are great things out there if they look. I'm wearing a Chant t-shirt in this picture -- Brad came up with the graphic himself. After the Therapy (as I took to calling it), I couldn't hear anything and everyone was yelling in that great way you do after a concert. The irony was that being deaf for a little while made me feel younger than I had in years.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

Drum Kit (the color comes from the glowing material that Brad uses during his live shows -- I have no idea what it is in the shows, but it is so cool!)

1 part vodka
1 part tonic
1 part green melon liqueur

Serve chilled.

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Staplegun


My pool manager, Marshall, used to throw me in the deep
end as a sign of affection, no matter how much I tried to
get away. Twice my age, twice my weight, and half
my hair, he would yell – you be the victim today, kiddo –
and I would endure it because I liked him and his kids
who stayed with him in the summer as part of a new
divorce arrangement. One of his sons followed me
around my stations, his first crush, until Marshall
came up and put his arms around me, saying, "What
do you think? Could she be your new stepmom?"
His son looked as if he’d been thrown in the deep
end without expecting it, and I laughed, the choked
sound of someone who had been underwater too long.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Shoot The Women First

In this picture, I'm holding my favorite gift from my friend Hank, a book of interviews with female terrorists. Shoot the Women First was published in the early 90s and has all the famous cases of the last twenty years, women from the IRA and PLO, talking about why they did what they did. The title of the book comes from an expert in the field of political revolutionaries who commented: "For anyone who loves his life, it is a very clever idea to shoot the women first. From my experience, women have much stronger characters, more power, more energy." (The book is written by a British journalist named Eileen MacDonald.) Of course, men do their share of bad things, but sometimes it's nice to see something about the times when women take on some of the complication of the world.

MacDonald never simplifies the motives or villifies the women, although she clearly did not like the Palestinian fighter Leila Khaled. Due to one spectacular (meaning no one died, but a lot of people were terrified) and much-photographed highjacking mission, Khaled became a pin-up girl for the movement, so much so that she had her face redone so she would could continue to work without recognition and then done again to look like herself once more by a reluctant but cowed plastic surgeon. To quote Khaled: "It was very painful because I did not have anesthetic. The operations had to be done secretly and there were no facilities for giving an anesthetic. I could feel everything that was happening." It does make one think that there might be something to the imperative in the title.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"As a lonely woman I had a particular relationship with weapons." Susanna Ronconi

Molotov Cocktail for Girls
1 part Stoli Vodka
1 part white grape juice
Served chilled in a martini glass.

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Long Shot and dedicated to my dear friend Phyllis for letting me use her story and laughing when she read it, saying "It seems way worse on paper!"

The Way You Look Tonight

My first date post-divorce was a set-up
with a friend of a friend who'd seen me sing
at a night club and thought I was pretty. He
took me to dinner and frowned when I
ordered a beer. Don't you want something
a little more ladylike? I didn't, so he
started to talk about a woman he'd broken
up with the week before. She was great.
I mean, she'd make me talk to her while
she was in the bathroom taking a dump.
She'd say, 'Everything else is fucking
fantasy. It doesn't get any realer than
this.'" The waiter sat down our drinks,
and I downed mine before the food came.
I couldn't wait to get home and drink
some more without having to get someone's
attention. My date paid for both of us, and I
asked him to stop at a party store on the way
home so I could finish what I started. "You're
not as pretty as I remembered,"he said. I paid
at the store before he had a chance to offer. He
fiddled with the radio on the way home, but I got out
of his car before he could find a song that he liked
well enough to listen to for more than a few seconds.

The Agony in the Garden

In this shot, I'm doing the rosary before going out to dinner with my dad and sister a couple of years ago. The rosary is something I came to late in life, having always loved the thing itself, but never being aware of the meditation. It's complicated to learn, but once you have it, it's lovely in its simplicity. There's the unchanging meditative part of it and the mysteries which shift depending on day of the week -- the joyful, sorrowful, and glorious. During Lent, all your rosaries fall into the sorrowful mysteries. I've had many sets of rosary beads over the years, most of them gifts. My favorite set is small plastic baby blue one with a picture of St. Ann as a devotion. I gave this to my friend Hank many years ago where he kept it in a cigar box with all his prized possessions until he died. His mother returned it to me at my daddy's funeral. Hank and my dad were great friends, and the clearest image I have from Hank's funeral is my father setting his hand on Hank's casket before it was lowered into the ground and saying, goodbye old buddy. Both my dad and Hank were extremely funny and could keep a joke going forever. At the dinner table they'd often pretend to be old-time British explorers going off to see exciting new worlds like Tanzania or Africa. I like to imagine that's where they are now, having a great time in what they used to refer to as "parts unknown."

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"I have lost you my brother/ and the springtime of my happiness./ There are no thoughts of love/ or poems in my head since you've died." Catullus

The Agony in the Garden
1 part Mandarin vodka
1 part lemonade

This is to be served chilled, as a shot.

Benedictions and Maledictions

I have said I am sorry to you and to God,
for not loving enough or too much, and by
my third martini, I am asking Jesus to crucify
himself again for my sins as if He didn’t get
enough of that the first time, and I remember
a crucifix I once saw over a bed, the body
of Jesus was the cross, and how I focused
on His suffering instead of my own while
in the act of love or regret, what passes for
a connection, and then I excuse myself
and next to the restroom, there is a shelf full
of unopened gin bottles with the afternoon
light streaming through them, so beautiful,
and I stagger inside the ladies and throw up
all over the floor because I can’t find the toilet.
Deep obliteration has loveliness no one can take
away from you, I think, as I wash the vomit out
of my hair, telling myself that I can fix myself
up so that it looks like nothing has happened.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Corpse Pose

I started yoga at the urging of my mother, who insisted that my life was pretty good, but that I needed to find a way to deal with stress. She had never done that (yoga or dealt with her stress) and didn't want me to fall into the same patterns. I took my first yoga class the month after she died with a tremendous deal of reluctance. Although a gymnast for many years (a dedicated one, if not very good -- all I had garnered for years of effort was second place on my floor routine, a zippy little number to the theme song of "Dallas" -- big whoopola as we used to say in those days), I wasn't into exercise except as a means of weight control. My diet, such as it is, is pretty abysmal by most standards -- Dr. Pepper, Count Chocula (until they stopped making it --I have three boxes in reserve), cocktail garnishes, and low-fat foods, such as low-fat Twinkies. My friend Cal convinced me that he had a great yoga teacher, and that I would love this guy and become addicted to the class. The teacher, Timothy Clark, allayed all my fears that the class would be taught by someone who spoke in a loathesome new age rhetoric. He says really smart, funny things all during class, and I have become a convert, one of those crazed types who tells everyone -- You've really got to take yoga! From Tim! He's great! Tim is also a an actor and a musician, and it's difficult to like someone so talented, but I do. My yoga name is Bad Tiny (my sister Beth is Good Tiny -- ha! She takes classes when she's in town, referring to herself as the Carol Burnett of yoga), evolved from Tiny Texan, then Tiny, and now people will joke and call me "The Artist Formerly Known As Michelle." Everyone should have a yoga name. My favorite part of the class is the last five minutes when we're all in corpse pose. What's not to like about something called corpse pose?

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Do you have the patience to wait until the mud settles and the water is clear?" Tao Te Ching

Corpse Pose
1 strawberry-banana smoothie
two shots of vodka

Benedictions and Maledictions

First appeared in the New England Anthology:

The Evil Eye

To guard against it, one must give away
that which others want. The books warn
of jealously, rage, the way other people look
at your plate and wish they could order again.
In yoga class, I pick the spot next to the wall
because no one forces me to move as new
bodies enter, as I have gone as far as I can.
I have come here not to confess my sins
but rather because I no longer care what other
people think. Father, forgive me, I know
precisely what I have done and to whom, not
the bride of Christ, exactly, but it’s the best
I can do, an excuse my mother would never
accept. Things are funny until you see them
close up, like the one-armed dwarf at the gym,
trudging along the treadmill, not in search
of perfection, or anything approximate,
just the pounding each mile provides on a machine
that can take you nowhere for as long as you can stand.

Friday, April 07, 2006

All We Know of Heaven

Behind me in this picture is the great HBO show Six Feet Under (Nate and Brenda mid-argument to be exact, Nate already being dead. Perhaps the most disturbing element of the show is not the death part, but the fact that you can still have the same tedious arguments with dead people as you can with the living). I was so so sad to see the end of this show, but what can you do? It's a show about a funeral home -- it sort of has to end.

When I was in junior high school, I went a storefront church with a pastor named Brother Buddy. He had clearly hoped to be an old-time religious Baptist preacher, like Billy Sunday or Billy Graham, but he was only a Buddy and his preaching wasn't thrilling and the church was hot as the hell he preached about. He had one sermon, the story about Nicodemus asking if he had to go back into his mother's womb to be born again. It wasn't a great sermon and it always lasted forever. The one time that Brother Buddy did achieve the kind of preaching power that he wanted was when you'd be in some mundane conversation and he'd look over and say, If you died today, would you be right with the Lord? You could see into his soul then, a scary soul that had been saved from a life of hell-raising and alcohol and even his cheap clothes seemed as if they'd been made by Armani, which is to say perfect for the moment, transformed or washed in the blood or whatever we used to say in those distant days. Last I heard, Brother Buddy became an undertaker and perhaps he asks the corpses the same question, and now he can stare into their eyes all he wants to see if they're hiding anything.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Cast a merciful glance upon those who are suffering, struggling against difficulties, with their lips constantly pressed against life's bitter cup." Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes

Life's Bitter Cup
1 part Envy vodka
1 part Schweppes tonic
splash of lime juice

Served chilled and garnished with lime.

Benedictions and Maledictions

First appeared in Quercus Review:

All We Know of Heaven

When you were here, it seemed enough.
Now are the days when every day is a death,
a reminder of all that is lost to us forever,
the black lights of grief, the punches that
did not telegraph themselves. Love breaks
your heart and is still not content. This is
all we know of heaven, that what we have
is never enough, that it has to be enough.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Lawyers, Guns, and Money

The statistics say that the gun in your house is more likely to kill you than any other gun, but I don't really believe it. I've always slept with a loaded gun under my bed, figuring if I was going to go out, it would be fighting. I'm friends with my gun, and my ex-husband even made a purse for it (which may be why he's my ex-husband). One of my very loveliest students, Charline in my 2420 Advanced Creative Writing class, gave me a beautiful new necklace with an AK-47 on it. I'm wearing it in this picture. Thank you, Charline! The maker of the AK-47 created a vodka (he wanted to be remembered for pleasure as well as defense), and it's excellent vodka! This drink is a testament to the pleasures of vodka. As a former champion Bible bowler (don't ask!), I know all about testaments and new beginnings. Let the backsliding begin.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"Should be depressed, my life's a mess, but I'm having a good time." Paul Simon

The Gun In Your House

1 part AK-47 Vodka
1 part pineapple juice
1 part orange juice

Benedictions and Maledictions (Poem for the day!)

A List of Shit Not To Do

1. Clean your gun by sticking it in your mouth as people will whisper at the funeral, he wasn’t really cleaning his gun, you know.

2. Love more than one person.

3. Love anyone.

4. Pills on an empty stomach. At the funeral, people will whisper, she probably didn’t know how much she was taking.

5. Worry about everything.

6. Buy inspirational cards in pastel colors that talk of the futility of worrying. At the funeral, everyone will say, She was trying so hard to be positive. If there is a hell on earth, these people will read the personal notes you left in the cards. Be assured, there is a hell on earth.

7. Fantasize about your funeral. After all, you’re not getting an invitation, per se.

8. Clean your gun by sticking it in your mouth -- Oh, I already said that.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Lust in Your Heart

As a child, I thought I heard God through the Texas heat. God turned out to be a rodeo announcer down the road much to the amusement of the adults standing around the yard, drinking Fuzzy Navels and bitching about how hot it was -- that was the year that the temperature didn't dip below a 100 degrees for nearly seventy days. Bad things happen when it gets that hot. My mother's boss killed himself at a party when he found out his wife was having an affair with his best friend. The official word was that he was cleaning his gun. Note to self -- do not clean a gun by sticking it in your mouth. This was the late seventies, and I remember it as a time of high anxiety about everything --a time when you could go and get your Halloween candy x-rayed to make sure there were no razors in it. But it was not without its innocent charms. Jimmy Carter claimed that he was not without sin (in Playboy) as he had "lusted in his heart." One would be hard-pressed to hear such a noble confession these days.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"There seems to be some miscarriage, some wrong turning, but I do not know when it took place and I have no hope of finding it." John Cheever

Lust In Your Heart

This is a decadent little dessert drink to make when you're feeling like summer may never arrive.

1 part godiva chocolate liqueur

1 part raspberry liqueur

1 part godiva white chocolate liqueur

1 part vanilla vodka

Benedictions and maledictions

Published in Chaffin Review:


You want Dick Clark, I'll show you
Dick Clark, Leland said and dropped
his pants. We kids ran to the kitchen
where our ancient babysitter Betsy stirred
instant mashed potatoes and waited
for the bologna to fry and announce
itself with a flying saucer shape. Just
ignore him, she told us. He wants
attention. The Lawrence Welk showed
played in the other room, and Leland walked
out the front door into another Saturday
night, peeling away in Betsy's champagne-
colored Pinto. We sat for dinner and said
a prayer, hoping that Leland would not
return that night. I was seven, Jimmy Carter
was president. I didn't know anything about
the energy crisis or his brother Billy's troubles.
Life was simple. Then again, it wasn't.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Walk-In Emergencies Welcome

Cass Corridor in December

When I moved from Texas to Detroit eight years ago, my friend Angela drove a huge U-Haul full of all my stuff and my car attached. She drove twenty hours of a twenty-two hour trip given my fear of driving anything much less a U-Haul while I sat in the passenger's seat, trying to imagine what it would be like to live somewhere I had never even seen, a real city. I moved into an upper flat in a beautiful house on Courville (the East Side), the kind with moldings out of a Woody Allen movie. As we drove past the mosque on the corner (one of the landmarks I was told to look for), I noticed a man urinating on a front lawn and Angela said, We can go back, but I took it as the most excellent omen and have loved the city ever since. It was raining as we moved my stuff, a kind of dull grey mist that made everything look eerie and wonderful, and I stood there looking at the sky until the landlords urged us to hurry up because everything would be stolen out of the U-Haul by night if we left it. As Angela and I drove around the next day, I noticed two things -- bullet-proof windows at the KFC drive-through window and a sign that said Walk-In Emergencies Welcome. They had my number -- I was a walking emergency all the time. It didn't take me long to fall in love with the city, much to the surprise of my new local friends -- You like it here? What can I say? When I had a flat tire that winter, the guy who helped me changed it in the snow said, Detroit ain't no joke. These roads will kill you, looking down at my sad Polynesian Metallic Green Geo Storm. The car lasted a lot longer than anyone thought it would (even with a donut tire for nine months) and so have I.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

Walk-In Emergencies Welcome

Scotch straight out of the bottle (preferably a lovely single malt like Dalwhinnie or Glenlivet -- although walking around in the snow drinking J&B will also work just fine -- the weather is imperative here -- Scotch is a northern drink and it's best to drink it in winter when the daylight lasts about an hour or so)

Benedictions and Maledictions

First appeared in Bryant Literary Review

I did not know any better except to love
it, the bluish glow of televisions at night,
snow that fell like promises only to turn
dirty and gray. The downstairs landlords
put up a sign in the backyard saying, This
is paradise
and watched as our next-door
neighbor almost strangled his daughter, saying,
Bitch, this is your last chance. Sometimes
I thought about where else I had been, but
not often. The streets in the city were
complicated, changing names midway, leaving
you wondering what miracle might happen next.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Something To Do In Bed

"I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day." - Dean Martin

This is a picture of me putting ice into a cocktail shaker, one of my favorite activities as it requires very little skill. I'm all for things that require almost no talent. When I was a little girl, I endured a year of Girl Scouts only to be kicked out for two reasons -- I was unable to tie a knot (a vital skill in the races to get badges and win competitions -- why this meant so much, God only knows) and being obsessed with death. This obsession manifested itself in many ways, mostly involving me talking about burial places (as in, "That would be a great place to be buried."), my feelings about not wanting a coffin, and asking the other little girls where they might want to be buried. These activities were frowned upon. I didn't mind being forced out -- I had only earned a whopping two badges during my tenure, one for reading, the other for starting fires. I barely even got a Cookie Round-Up badge, the one that the leaders were forced to give everyone because I had sold so few cookies. So it was all kind of a bust, but I still read all the time and it's always good to know how to start a fire.

Something To Do In Bed

3 parts champagne (mid-range is fine for this cocktail)
1 part X-Rated Vodka (this vodka is pink and flavored with passion fruit -- it has a very distinctive taste, much like the best candy in the world)
I would recommend freezing the vodka before using it -- it will achieve the texture of a slushee and work well with the champagne

This is a very festive drink and packs a happy punch, perfect for seductions. For your listening pleasure I'd recommend something romantic and sad -- Etta James would be just the thing. Preferably late on a Sunday afternoon when you're supposed to be doing laundry or something truly productive.

Benedictions and Maledictions
"That is the way with amputations. They don't just heal up like a wish." Anne Sexton

Forthcoming in Raintown Review

Make Yourself Small

God will come in later, of this I feel certain.
Let’s consider the nurse Richard Speck
didn’t kill, the one that he bound who still
managed to hide under a bed, only to find
all the others stabbed in the eyes and breasts.
You wanted details, right? Hide under
whatever you can find, make yourself small.
Everyone finds something horrible in time.
Best to close your eyes. Keep them closed.

Never Blend In

Today is Marvin Gaye's birthday, the day after his death day. (Note the timely Sopranos reference and the use of Marvin Gaye's name as a verb relating to his father murdering him-- ie, "He Marvin-Gayed his own nephew.") The first time I went to the Motown Museum in Detroit, the guide talked about the two people who first had creative control over their own music on the Motown label -- Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. According to the guide, this control was granted to Stevie Wonder because he was a "genius" and Marvin Gaye because he was "unbelievably stubborn." I love both men's music, but I can relate to being stubborn more than I can relate to being a genius. Of course, Marvin Gaye was both. I travel a fair amount and on the way to the airport, there's several billboards advertising Hennessey with a beautiful picture of Marvin Gaye in the rain that always reminds me that I'm leaving Detroit or returning to it, the place Joyce Carol Oates calls "that most complicated of American cities." The drink of the day is a lovely after-dinner drink that helps to ease complication, mostly due to its perfect simplicity.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"Saints have no moderation/ nor do poets/ just exuberance." Anne Sexton

Inner-City Blues
One part Hennessey
One part Starbuck's Cream Liqueur

Served chilled or on the rocks.

Benedictions and Maledictions

"There's only three things, that's for sure -- taxes, death, and trouble." Marvin Gaye

Never Blend In
Marvin Gaye looks down upon me
in the grey Detroit rain, his luminous face
on a billboard for Hennessey. I drive
the chewed-up streets, the streets Marvin
drove while writing those perfect songs,
knowing I cannot write anything anyone
would want to hear. My songs say I am
a small petty person, that there is jealousy
in my heart, perhaps no love can last.
Marvin says, If I could build my whole world
around you, and when I look into his eyes far off
and sad, I think just maybe he already has.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Aphrodite's Darling

This picture is of me and a bottle of Vietnamese Snake Wine. I received this as a gift from one of my students on what would have been my mother's 56th birthday had she lived that long. My mother was a snake-handler of sorts -- she froze snakes and spiders and made decorations with them, sort of a really messed-up Martha Stewart deal. Having poisonous snakes all around the house was so not a good thing at times! There's an actual baby cobra in the bottle of wine, and I love him! He's my sweet baby cobra. I've never had a sip of the snake wine because who wants to ruin something beautiful by opening it? The wine is supposed to cure lumbago, arthritis, and sweat of limbs. Who knew there was a cure for sweat of limbs?

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Fuck the applause. Where's my drink?" John Berrymore

Aphrodite's Darling

3 parts Godiva chocolate liquor
2 parts UV cherry vodka (very affordable and lovely-tasting vodka)
2 parts vanilla vodka (any brand)

This is a lovely drink for all the girls. It's seduction and love and a chocolate-covered cherry.

Benedictions and Maledictions

First appeared in Out of Line

"From the bottom of a pool/fixed stars govern a life." Sylvia Plath

Bedtime Stories
Men hide under cars, slash a woman's
tendons so she can't run, my mother
said. These were the days of John Wayne
Gacy and Henry Lee Lucas, making
a person believe you had to have three
names to kill. Or maybe not. Consider
Ted Bundy. In a few years, my mother
told me, you will look exactly like all
those girls he killed. I had long black
hair, haunted brown eyes, the palest
complexion. We'd play a game before
bed -- What would you do if?, each
scenario with just enough opportunity
to escape if you were smart and quick,
the final question always being, Are
all your windows locked? The door?