Friday, May 19, 2006

Color All Days Blue, Save One For Black


When I was in the fifth grade, I became obsessed with Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. Whenever my mother took me to the mall, I'd stare at the book with intense longing and fear. The cover was a photograph of a beautiful blonde girl trapped in an attic. I feared that it had things in it that were scary and forbidden, and I wanted it more than anything else. The blurb on the back read in blood red -- Such Wonderful Children. Such a beautiful mother. Such a lovely house. Such endless terror! Eventually I broke my mother down, and she bought me the book despite her reservations that it might be too adult. Little did she know that I'd already read her Anthony Quinn autobiography, The Original Sin, which had more sex in it than any autobiography ought. Quinn's work was frank, but he cared more about love (yawn!) and coming to the epiphany that it was a sin not to live and love fully (all that new-age 70s crap must have seemed fresh at the time) than explaining to the reader how he could justify (not to mention schedule!) having sex with three different women in the same day. And the sex was all from the male point of view, and he always seemed sure of himself. Even being out of control, he still called the shots.

Not so with Flowers. The narrator, Cathy, experienced every dark thing about coming of age in an attic with her brother and twin baby siblings while being tortured by her grandmother. No Hello God, It's Me Margaret moment here. Everything -- getting her period, learning about sex, her brother trying to seduce her -- gave her tremendous pain. No respite except putting up some construction paper flowers in the attic to indicate the seasons. No going outside, no school, no nothing. Sometimes Cathy and Chris (the brother) would hide during parties and watch their beautiful mother look for a new husband (their father died and that's what sent them to live with Grandmother Dearest). Their mother had to pretend they were dead to live with her mother. For reasons that can't be fully explained, this book became a huge bestseller, spawning several sequels. All the sequels deal with the same issue -- the past informing the present. You can't get away from what's happened to you. You carry your pain, your children carry your pain, their children, and so on. That's what a curse is, of course, something that doesn't get better. At the end of Flowers, the children run away from the attic to start a new life. Cathy hopes they can forget, tries to get her younger sister to smile, but it's a half-smile. Of course, that's enough to give Cathy hope. It has to be.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

John 1, King James Version
"And the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not."

Petals on the Wind

1 part vanilla vodka
1 part Godiva liqueur (dark)
1 part Starbucks liqueur (dark)
splash of raspberry liqueur

Serve chilled.

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Revolve

Mary Remains Unmoved

I have grown afraid of soft things, the silks
that can make a woman beautiful, instead
preferring the hard wet concrete at the foot
of the Mary in the outdoor shrine, the fumbling
with candles in the cold, the way the wind conspires
to make lighting difficult. Last year a woman was
taken from this shrine and raped, and I never cease
to think about it when I ask Mary for favors, the way
a girl begs her mother -- Please don’t leave until I
fall asleep. No matter what I say, Mary remains
unmoved, her eyes toward Heaven, her feet entangled
by a stone snake, and I know that she has seen acts
that she wishes to forget, the work of the desperate
and the brutal. Forgiveness sounds great until you have
to do it over and over. You are so lovely, a man will
say, until you are not. I continue to light in the cold,
one eye on the Mother of God, the other on everything
outside, in each set of headlights, the world of possibility
by which a person can be blinded, if only for a moment.

5 comments:

cindy said...

Michelle,

So cute! And Baby Grouchie is your perfect companion. Better than a man like Anthony Quinn -- what a bastard "Zorba" he was! And so-called painter. You have more talent on your little pinky. The poem is so scary but true.

xom
Cindy

Cheri said...

how ironic, i've been re-reading the entire series these last few days! definately one of my favorites.

Cindy definately has it right- men suck.

Wichita-Lineman said...

Another great poem, I'd put it in my top ten favs by you but it's already full so I'll expand it to top 15.
" Forgiveness sounds great until you have
to do it over and over. You are so lovely, a man will
say, until you are not."
I don't know what to say, I'm running out of words of praise. Fantastic line, great poem. It has an all around creepy feel, the coming together of the Mary (purity) and Brutality (filth) and the headlights, blinding it all.

I'm praying for your Piston's tonight, they do have the best on the road record this season.

Paul said...

Oh man, such a happy picture, such a spooky poem and that Flowers in the Attic gives me the willies. Even seeing the cover.

Tom said...

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!GO!!!!!!!!!!!PISTONS!!!!!!!!!!GOTTEM GOOD!!!!!!