Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What Lasts


When I was fifteen, I wrote my first novel, an attempt aborted around page one hundred (hand-written) about a Jewish psychiatrist who hated his life, had terrible sex with his wife, and was eating ham out of the fridge late at night because of his despondency. I didn't understand that ham wasn't a likely food for him to be eating or what it would be like to work as a psychiatrist or be married. He lived in New York City (which seemed to be the promised land), somewhere I also knew nothing about except from books. Mostly books by Philip Roth, who I had decided that I would eventually date. (This was before I read Portnoy's Defense -- at that point, I decided we would just be friends).

I still have a soft spot for Phil -- his work keeps getting better and better, something that can't be said of most writers who have been around as long as he has. Much of my writing became autobiographical instead of imitative, but the influence of all that early reading remains. As for my first attempted book of poems, that I wrote the next year, titled Irrational Fears and detailed a complete acting out of 13 different scenarios of sadness and misery. In retrospect I should have titled it, Shit That Will Most Certainly Happen To You. It was a harbinger of things to come, like so much of what we put on the page is.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"What you begin with is what lasts." Charles Wright

Raymond Carver Picnic
KFC chicken bucket
1 bottle of champagne (cheap is just fine, but Moet is ideal for compliment to chicken)

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Chrysalis

Vietnam on the Edge of West Texas

On the decommissioned army base on the outskirts
of town, a home for juvenile delinquents named
Edgemeade sat near blocks of cement with names
of Vietnamese villages on them. Not much happened
there since helicopter pilots trained to drop bombs
during the war, flying low to read the exotic-sounding
names that now served as make-out spots for local
teenagers looking for a place where they weren’t likely
to be disturbed. Sometimes the Edgemeade kids
would set fire to old barracks, sparks that went up
fast on the edge of West Texas. Even though there
wasn’t much to burn, it looked spectacular,
particularly if you were close. The concrete blocks
never suffered any damage; the villages stood intact
waiting for more couples to discover them –
Than Ke, Quang Ngai, Tri Binh – words
that didn’t sound like anything you’d ever understand
until you were there, places that you only went
to at night, lit by distant fires that left traces
of things that had long since been abandoned.

4 comments:

Amy said...

Philip Roth rules!

Love the latest post -- and the photo. You are most definitely built to last, my friend. Here's to yoga and similarly helpful activities :->

cindy said...

Dear Michelle

Beautiful, as always. I love how you look like an angel suspended. How sweet!

xo
Cindy

JR's Thumbprints said...

Hey Michelle

What can I say? I'm no longer "a head on a stick." Michelle's Spell has spawned my blog! You're my very first blog comment too. All anxiety has been lifted. Jim

Cheri said...

I've taken Jims initative and created a blog of my own. Check it out, sweet cheeks!