Wednesday, April 30, 2008



None of us learned sign language even
though my grandmother was nearly
deaf after being boxed in the ears by my
grandfather when she came home too late
from babysitting me. I could hear yelling
through the trailer window, and nobody knew
what to do so we drove away and left her there
with the only man she had ever loved. Even
then, I understood you couldn’t save someone
unless you were willing to crucify yourself.
Our car rolled over the gravel and onto a paved
road that lead us to our house. It wasn’t much,
that house, with its long black bars covering
the windows, part decoration, part prison, but
it was a house, you see, and it didn’t move every
time the weather changed like the trailer did.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Everything is a joke to you" (A.J. to Tony Soprano) and Tony's response -- "I'm not having a good time." David Chase

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: Ultimate Live Iggy Pop

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Astrological Birth Control

It's playoff time, and I know I'm in trouble when I'm sitting in my office, watching the game during class breaks. But the Pistons are pulling it through so thank the Lord. In this picture, I'm surrounded by some of my Our Bodies, Ourselves. I have vintage ones that even mention the highly dubious astrological birth control. I don't think this works, but one never knows. I used to read the section on illegal abortion techniques a lot which in some ways explains why I'm divorced. It's not really great foreplay to be totally frank. Anyway, I'll be back tomorrow!

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I hate that we get ourselves into this bind. But that's what the Pistons do -- pull ourselves out of a corner." Chauncey Billups, Mr. Big Shot

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion: The Wolf at the Table Augusten Burroughs

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 28, 2008

This Is A Healing Thing

At the end of the semester, I typically read an essay or story of mine to classes in order to make myself vulnerable in the way that they've been doing all semester. I work it in with their presentations (five minutes of reading their own writing). They mostly hate reading their own stuff, love listening to others. Even though I have been in front of them all semester, I feel oddly nervous when I get up to read. Because, as I tell them, it never gets easier. It's always scary as hell to say, Here I am! Love me, hate me, whatthefuckever. Nightmare, in fact. Last week, I read "The Ceiling Or the Floor," the completed version of the rape essay I have been working on through various blog entries for the past year. You don't get much more vulnerable than that which is why it works if it works. Like the Wallendas said, There's only the tight-rope. The rest of life is waiting.

I don't know how much longer I'll be a teacher, but I got my very best teaching compliment today, something along the lines that I had given a woman the courage to read an essay an extremely traumatic experience that happened to her over fifteen years ago. "I could never talk about it. But this is a healing thing. I figured if you could read what you read, I could." She even brought her own kleenex. Someone once told me that to read for one person is an honor. I couldn't agree more, especially when the one person is listening so closely and willing to be so brave. I once had someone tell me that I didn't have to live the way I did, but I can't think of any other way and most of the time, I am glad for it.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"He sees the cities fuck and fight/ And all of this was made for you and me."Iggy Pop

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion: Madness Marya Hornbacher

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Go Pistons!

Hi readers! The Pistons won tonight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm a happy, happy person. I have much to say, but I'll be saying in tomorrow. Tonight, I listen to the live version of Iggy Pop's "The Passenger" and rest. Happy Sunday!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

Flowers, All Kinds

In this picture, I'm holding a beautiful picture of a rose that my friend Robin photographed. As she pointed out after taking pictures of lots of roses, each one is different. "You'd think they'd all look the same," she said. "But they grow in different ways and no two are the same size." I love flowers, all kinds, and think of them as my little friends. But almost all the women I know don't -- "I don't like things that die," my sister says, an echo of the sentiments of many. But I like them because they do. I've never seen the point of fake plants, collecting dust and looking like something they are not. I do enough of that myself. Sometimes nothing but the real thing will do, the rose in its particulars, the way it surprises you by being so lovely and real and fading away to be tossed with the week's garbage, all of it having served its purpose for a time before being left on the curb.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Dreaming about being an actress, is more exciting then being one." Marilyn Monroe

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Me Without You

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Sort Of Modern-Day Stigmata

Posting "On The Steps Of St. Something" this week, I remembered when I was writing it, trying to make it work. I liked a lot of things about it as I wrote it, love setting a story at Halloween for any old reason. Thought about the costumes we wear, the way time changes us. I had a nightmare before I started writing it, one in which I entered a baptismal and came out of it with knife marks all over my face, irremediable bleeding scars that in that crazy nature of dream logic were both fresh and had been there forever and always would be, a sort of modern-day stigmata. The feelings in the dream informed the story, although the actual scene never made it to the final version, that deep sad nostalgic feeling about both understanding how much there is to enjoy in the here and now and how much energy we spend escaping it, trying to tamp down our pain or be somewhere else that doesn't require so much work.

When I workshopped this story in a summer conference, the class consensus was clear; I'd left out the most important part. In that draft, I'd jump cut away from the sex scene or what actually wasn't a sex scene but rather the exquisitely painful position of finding yourself somewhere you don't want to be and maybe having to do something you don't want to do for reasons you can't possibly understand. So I wrote it, cringing the whole time, the way I do when something is working. But I don't cringe because I'm worried that people will think the character is me (a frequent fear of my students -- I could not care less) or that my parents will read it (they're dead) or that I'm disgusted. I'm not. But sometimes the truth is ever so painful that you can hardly bear it. I have a friend who bit off his tongue in an accident, something he'd been doing metaphorically for years. When it happened, I couldn't help but marvel at the world and its perfect symbolism. Life is so strange, strange enough to make you bleed and scar at the same time.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another."
Toni Morrison

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Juno

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday! Congratulations to my beloved Pistons for last night's big victory!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nothing Had Changed

Here's the last scene in "On The Steps Of St. Something." Thanks for all the sweet comments!

Somehow I struggled through my morning classes in spite of the waves of nausea. I taught in two classrooms, both disadvantaged by noise -- one was right next to the men’s bathroom and every flush echoed through the room, the other next to a deaf rabbi who yelled each and every day about Nazis, the death penalty, and how morality is shot to hell in the world as we know it. I wondered how he worked that into a basic freshman composition class. In a weird way, I was thankful for feeling bad because not having a hangover would have made the world seem unbearably bright and full of possibility, something I could not have borne that particular day, November 1st, the Day of the Dead.

I left a little before my office hours were over, thinking about getting my prescription so that the night would be quiet and I could sit home alone without having a terrible anxiety attack, maybe cook dinner or watch television. I studied the map in my office, but out on the road I couldn't figure out which street was the service road I was supposed to take. I tried to stay calm, but I couldn't concentrate because I didn't feel entirely okay from the drinking, and I teared up, thinking that I would be on the same ugly roads, passing the same ugly buildings forever, not getting any closer to where I was supposed to be.

I pulled over next to a Catholic church and took my crumpled map out, but it didn't make any sense. All of a sudden, a hot flash washed over me, and I felt as though I was going to be sick. I stepped out of the car, hoping the cool air would help, and tried to appreciate the beautiful Indian summer day, a perfect day before the long winter set in. I sat down on the steps of the church and rested my head on the railing, thinking, Here I am on the steps of St. Something, and I feel like I might die. I thought I knew the area, but I lost my way. I didn't know if I could get back. I was too late for my appointment, and I didn't know what I wanted to do, only what I didn't want to do, which was get back in my car and drive home. Even though I hadn't prayed in a long time, I prayed the only phrase that came to mind - - "Make a way where there is no way."

After hanging my head down for what felt like forever, I heard the school next door let out, the children in their uniforms enjoying the weather, free from duty for a few hours. They waited for their rides, and I sat beneath a statue of Mary, her heart open and full of thorns for everyone to see. I looked at my map again before stuffing it into my purse. Nothing had changed, but I didn't feel quite so anxious. I felt tired and ready to sleep, and I found myself thinking about my ex-boyfriend and crying for the first time sober, remembering the many road trips we took together, the many miles I went with him, vast empty stretches we covered before I woke up and realized that the entire landscape had shifted.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I married Isis on the fifth day of May/ But I could not hold onto her very long." Bob Dylan

Cocktail Hour
Drinking suggestion: Watch the Pistons tonight!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

All Evidence To The Contrary

Here's pentultimate scene in the story. Thanks so much for reading!
Driving home, I was glad the night was over, but my hands were shaking so badly that I could barely steer the car. I walked into my apartment and realized that my arms were sore from trying not to touch Kevin during the night. I didn't know if this soreness was the most depressing detail from the experience, but it felt like it.

I hate entering places that have been empty overnight, but I reassured myself that it was okay, that there was no one to whom I would have to explain myself, but I couldn't get over the feeling that I wasn't alone, all evidence to the contrary.

After resting on the couch for as long as I could, I performed my morning ablutions, looking in the mirror, thinking, "Who's the fairest of them all?" Not me, not anymore. My mother used to say, "Are you trying to make yourself look bad?" when she didn't approve of my clothes or hairstyle. I wasn't, but I wondered if I'd changed.

Sorting through the mail, I found the usual bills and coupons, my hands fumbling through them, looking for something good. When I figured out there was nothing I wanted to keep, I separated the bills to pay later, tossing everything else in the trash, including those flyers with the faces of the missing, those desperate pleas from people brave enough to express their desires, people hoping for reunions with the ones they love, however unlikely, however distant.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"A man has to be Joe McCarthy to be called ruthless. All a woman has to do is put you on hold.” Marlo Thomas
Cocktail Hour
Playoff Shot: Whiskey over ice in a Pistons shot glass!
Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Turn Off The Light

"Ignore the mess. I'm not the cleanest person," he said.

I smiled and clutched at the edge of the covers, still sitting and wondering when he was going to turn off the light.

"How do I get you out of this?" Kevin asked, his hand on my shoulder.

"Will you undo me?" I asked. I ran my hand down the hidden zipper on my back.

He unzipped the dress until it hit the point where it always caught. "That's as far as it goes," I said. I stepped out of the dress and took off my shoes and tights. It didn't leave much so I got underneath the sheet and thought about how I'd ended up in a stranger's bed with blood on the sheets. Would this be where I finally got what I deserved?

"Will you turn out the light?" I asked.

"I like the light on," he said. He took off his sweater, the static making his hair stand up.
I pulled the sheet over my head. I couldn't stand the brightness.

"Stop it. You look like a corpse," he said. From underneath the sheet, I could tell he had turned toward me.

"Turn off the light. I can't function like this," I said.

He turned off the light. "Better?"

But it wasn't. I stayed where I was. I could imagine the absinthe, that horrible vivid green, making me glow and remembered my doctor asking me if my life felt unmanageable. That, I supposed, was one way to put it.

"I don't understand what you're doing," Kevin said.

"Hide and hide. It's a variation on hide and seek." I scrunched myself tighter underneath the sheet and felt the bloodstain, gritty and stiff, with my toe.

"Come on, I'm really tired," Kevin said. He sighed.

I shrugged, but kept silent.

"I don't need this," Kevin said. I thought about the picture on his desk. He rolled over and positioned himself under the comforter.

I stayed still, hoping he would fall asleep. I wished I lived somewhere warm, and I thought about when I was a little girl learning to swim. My mother or one of her friends would put me in our swimming pool, a small above-ground affair, that seemed huge at the time. I would swim to one of them while they kept moving further and further back, forcing me to go farther each time before I ended up in one of their arms. It was the idea that I would end up somewhere safe that kept me going, and I knew that's what my last boyfriend was, the refuge that I kept trying to reach and never could. Without someone coaching me through the water, I couldn't conceive of what would make me want to keep going.

I looked over at Kevin, predictably asleep, and felt the bitter aftermath of something longed for, but ill-considered, the way you find leftovers - - indifferent at best, repulsive at worst. I closed my eyes and waited for the morning.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
“Jazz is not just music, it's a way of life, it's a way of being, a way of thinking. . . . the new inventive phrases we make up to describe things -- all that to me is jazz just as much as the music we play." Nina Simone

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Shawn Of The Dead

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

They'll Forget How To Act Around People

He put his head on my shoulder. I thought the gesture strangely sweet. "I won't lose you," he said. "But you better get in before you freeze to death."

I heated up my car and waited for him to get in his. He pulled out of the parking lot and signaled left, and I followed him past all the strip malls and fast food restaurants, the hamburger odor of a White Castle entering my car, making me wonder how anyone could eat there if it smelled so bad from such a distance.

He entered the parking area for a building of condos, and I felt a chill of excitement and fear pass through me, the same feeling I had when I was a little girl at the zoo, on the threshold of the Herpetarium. As much as I feared the snake and lizard exhibits, this was the only place in the whole damn zoo that offered any relief from the unrelenting Texas heat. I'd keep my eyes closed for most of it, only open enough to make my way through, until the interactive display at the end. There, each featured snake lay in a tank with buttons attached to the outside of it and a person could guess whether each was poisonous or not. If you hit the right button, the information about the snake's habitat would appear in red or green. If you were wrong, a buzzer would go off, letting you know that your mistake could have been fatal had you been in the wild. No matter how hard I tried, I almost always chose the wrong button. It got to the point where I was bewildered if I didn't hear the buzzing noise.

"Am I allowed to be here?" I asked. I didn't know if this building had specific rules about what spaces visitors could occupy. I could see my car being towed away, me being trapped without a ready escape.

"It won't hurt for tonight," Kevin said. He hit his key chain and his car made a beeping sound that startled me.

The lobby was warm and covered with pictures of jazz musicians. Each condo was named after one of them: the Ellington, the Armstrong, the Miles Suite. Kevin lived in the Parker. As he put the key into his door, I thought how every place is a mystery, even condos, which are designed to eliminate it.

"I'll take that," he said. I handed him my jacket and watched him put it in a hall closet. The living room was neat without much stuff, something I could appreciate until I saw a large glass box.

"I didn't know you could have snakes in a place like this," I said. "I thought it wasn't allowed when you lived around other people."

"You want to watch me feed him?" he asked. He pointed at a rat in a small metal cage. "It's his night."

"Lucky me," I said. I backed away from the cage as he unlatched the rat. "I can't watch this horror show."

"Don't be such a baby. It'll only take a minute," he said, as though he were administering a painful but necessary shot.
I heard an awful noise, like a scream and turned around.
"All over," he said.
"What was that noise?"
"It was the rat. Sometimes they scream right before they get eaten," Kevin said, neither amused nor upset by this.
I sat down and tried to focus on the blank television set, the way a dancer spots an object on the wall to keep from getting dizzy.
"You can hypnotize snakes, you know," he said. He traced a line on the glass top of the cage with his index finger. The snake followed, the bulge in his stomach about rat-sized. Kevin started to unlatch the cage again.

"You're not going to let that thing out, are you?"
"You have to let them crawl around on you, or they'll forget how to act around people. That's when they start to bite."

I looked at him with fear, so he closed the latch and explained that his pet wasn't poisonous, but did have a decoagulator in its fangs so that the only risk was bleeding a lot when bitten.
"That's a comfort," I said. "Do you have anything else to drink?" I was afraid my buzz would wear off, and I would want to run far away from Kevin and his awful snake.

He reached into his cabinet and pulled out a bottle of beautiful green liquid. I couldn't imagine what it might be.

"Try some of this," he said, pouring a small amount into a glass tumbler. "It's absinthe. Illegal here, but I have a buddy who had a case shipped from Belgium. If you drink enough of it, you'll hallucinate."

I didn't know if I should trust him, but I downed it and waited. I didn't see anything that wasn't there before.

"You warm enough?" Kevin asked. He had turned out the lights by the glass box and sat down on his couch. "I'm having a hard time controlling the temperature in here. It's really tough on him" -- He motioned to the beast, now at rest -- "because he doesn't have any internal regulatory device. He's sensitive to the slightest deviations in the atmosphere."

I concluded that this had all been a mistake, but that the roller coaster bar had clicked and I was going on this ride whether I liked it or not. I found my way to the bathroom. As I looked in the mirror, I heard music coming out of the other room. It sounded like "My Funny Valentine," a sad version, the best kind.  

Kevin didn't have any toilet paper, just a bunch of coffee filters that sat on the back on the toilet seat, blooming like some kind of overgrown flower. I touched the counter and jumped from a small static shock. As I dug around in my purse for some make-up, my reflection quivered before me as if illuminated by candlelight instead of the ugly florescent ones set into the medicine cabinet.  

"Are you okay?" Kevin yelled.

I nodded before I realized that he couldn't see me. "Give me a minute to pull myself together."
I found my lipstick and tried to draw a bow, but found myself going out of the lines. The more I tried to make it work, the bigger mess I made. I consoled myself that I had a kissed, pouty look that might be mistaken for sex appeal. Before putting everything away, I shocked myself again. I couldn't seem to stop.

"You look great," Kevin said. I knew how I looked: drunk, clownish, tired. I smiled anyway. It didn't take much.

After a few kisses on the couch, Kevin hauled me up by my hands and led me to the bedroom. I was glad to get away from the snake, but nervous as to what might happen next. My heart was beating fast, but I felt drowsy from all the drinks. It didn't seem like those two things could happen at the same time, but they were.

Michelle Spell of the Day
"You stop and then you go.  You just go then." My brilliant wisdom to my friend Angela when we were stuck in a traffic jam in Ohio for a very long time

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Spider

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Snakebite Is A Shot

I decided that whatever Kevin's faults might be, he'd do for the night. I also knew we needed to get started on something stronger if we were going to get through the awkward phase to the going home together phase, which wasn't exactly what I wanted, but it would guarantee a few hours of sleep, which I couldn't do without. I grabbed Kevin's hand and led him to the bar.

"I'll have a snakebite," I said. "You game?"
"What's in it?"

"Jack Daniels, tequila, and Tabasco sauce," I said.

A snakebite is a shot, but the girl working the counter was just out of bartending school and made it like a mixed drink with ice. I told her it was a shot and she let me keep the mistake, which I nursed while she worked on the other one, the idea being that something, however screwed up, is better than nothing.

Kevin pushed his away on principle. He wanted his done right, which is not something you'd suspect from a man who just ordered something called a snakebite, but there it was. I thought about slowing down on the booze, but I couldn't think of a reason not to and plenty of reasons to not - - the perpetual state of mind of someone who never feels quite bad enough to stop or good enough to want to.

"That's a hell of a drink," Kevin said.

"It helps me sleep. Insomnia runs in my family." I thought about my mother not sleeping well for years and eventually consulting a hypnotist who made her a tape of a person going down an elevator, a bell dinging at each floor, the idea that you'd be asleep before you hit bottom. From my own bedroom, I listened to the tape until I heard the click of it reaching the end and my mother's sighs as she rewound it.

"I have a way to get you to sleep," he said.

I looked at him and thought about trying to get home drunk and having to sit up alone in bed while the room spun.

"Lead the way," I said, twirling around and offering him my hands.

We stepped out into the night where I started to shiver because the temperature had dropped, and I wasn't wearing enough layers to endure the wind for long.

"You want to follow me? It's not a long drive to where I live," he said.

"Okay. Just don't lose me. I'm afraid I may never find my way back."

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Everywhere she went, she went against her better judgment, including here." What Dorothy Parker wanted written on her tombstone

Cocktail Hour
Drinking novella suggestion: 92 Days Larry Brown

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Saturday!

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Amazing Kreskin

Here's the next installment! Thanks for reading!

Inside the bar, men watched football on a small black and white television. On the muted set, a man lay on the field, coaches all around. I looked around the room, searching for anyone I recognized. I didn't see anyone so I went to the bar and ordered a screwdriver. Staking out a table in the back, I took my drink and focused my attention on the game. The man on the field was being carried away on a stretcher, and I thought that's the great thing about being hit really hard -- nobody expects you to keep playing.

"Do you know what time it is?" a man asked. He looked older than me, but not by much. He looked like a computer programmer, but I tried to let that go.
I pointed at a clock on the wall near the life-size Elvira advertising Coors.
"It's not as late as I thought," he said.

"Are you expecting someone?"

"Well, I met someone in a chat room the other day and we were going to meet here in person, but I don't see her. You're the only her I see and I don't think I'm that lucky."

I smiled. "You can sit down with me while you wait."

"Why is that section dark?" he asked, pointing at a string of orange jack-o-lantern lights strung up around the bar.

"It's one of those older sets. If one of the fuses blows, they all go. The newer ones don't have the same codependency issues," I said.

He laughed. "My name is Kevin."

"Alexa." The edge of the bar was lined with Halloween stockings in orange and black, the names of the employees in gold glitter cursive on the tops. The toes of the stockings bulged with candy.

"What are you having?" Kevin asked.

"A screwdriver," I said. He looked at me, and I knew what was coming next.

"You aren't from around here originally, are you?" My accent gives me away, every time.


"Don't." He put his hand to his forehead and said. "Let me guess."

"You're the Amazing Kreskin?"

He let his finger fall. "Who's he?"

"He reads mind. Bends spoons, all that. He read my mother's mind once. She sat in the audience thinking about a trip she was about to take. He kept saying, 'I see a foreign place and someone going to it, but she wouldn't stand up. He finally moved on, but she believed in him after that."

"Nothing like a woman who won't let you know when you're right," he said.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Every time I think that I'm getting old, and gradually going to the grave, something else happens"
Elvis Presley

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: Tumbleweed Connection Elton John

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

They Let You Sleep

After I dropped off my groceries, I drove to Nolan's, a small neighborhood bar that had a reputation for serving semi-expensive, strong drinks, drinks that I could nurse for long periods of time. I thought about turning the car around and going home, but I couldn't cope with the thought of returning to my neat apartment without so much as a pain pill or sleeping pill, just half a bottle of Bailey’s and some herbal sleep supplements that "don't make you sleep, they let you sleep." No, the only drugs that actually did any good were the ones that my HMO doctor wouldn't prescribe as often as I needed them. I hoped that the psychiatrist might take a different line in light of the human suffering being inflicted.

I had been threatened with therapy, nearly twenty years before, at the tender age of ten. My Girl Scout leader demanded that my mother take me to "see someone" or I was out of the troop. In retrospect, the ultimatum was not a strange one given that I obsessed about death in those days. By the time I was ten, I had written suicide notes for all my stuffed animals, saying things like "Mr. Teddy has grown weary of things," and "Chatty Cathy has had enough." All of this is to say that I was not like all the other well-adjusted, happy little girls who participated in wholesome activities like the Cookie Rodeo, and sang songs about making new friends and keeping the old, one being silver and the other gold.

Before Girl Scouts, I spent most weekends playing "moving van" with my younger sister. We would get on the couch with our mouse dolls, Missy and Max, and drive them to exotic destinations. I would usually kick my sister's doll off the van and pretend to run him over, saying he was never ever coming back.

In short, I was ill-suited for camping trips with normal girls. The only pleasure I obtained from these trips was picking out my future burial site and asking the other little girls where they wanted to be buried when their times came.
I didn't last long.

As I drove the familiar road, I watched trick-or-treaters run from house to house. I passed a yard lit up with tiki torches, a dozen little fires so high up that no one could feel the heat. I wondered how the children decided what they wanted to be.
As for myself, I had spent some time rejecting looks, hoping that by changing my clothes, I could become a different person. After thirty minutes of sifting through possibilities that all looked better on the hanger, I decided on a tight black dress that zipped up the back and black tights. When I was deciding, I thought about the annual Halloween question my mother posed to me -- Do you want to be scary or pretty? It was years before I figured out that I could be both.

Michelle's Spell of Day
"There is no point in witnessing the destruction of a man who is thoroughly virtuous or who is thoroughly corrupt." Aristotle

Cocktail Hour
Drinking television show suggestion: Sanford and Son

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

All My Grocery Shopping

Part two of the story -- thanks for reading!

After I finished grading, I bought a bag of animal crackers for dinner and thought about my options. I needed to go to the store because even though I could do without food, I would need Coke to get through the inevitable next-morning hangover. That being the case, I decided to do all my grocery shopping, such as it is. I packed up my satchel and walked out to my car, noticing how the wind made everything dramatic and fraught with possibility, the way the first drink of the night makes life seem mystical, no matter how mundane it really is.

Pulling into the Kroger parking lot, a wave of exhaustion overcame me, and I wished that I didn't have to get out of the car, find a cart, go through the store, pay the bill, and unload everything when I got home. As I wrestled a cart away from the other carts, I wondered how many moments I spent dreading the next thing I had to do, and if that's what constituted life. I could see myself in twenty years, remembering this parking lot with happiness, the way the evening gave off an autumnal glow, imagining this as one of my better moments, young and free with my health intact.

A banner trumpeted "Halloween Savings." The prices weren't any lower. The old price tags had been replaced with slightly higher ones and then slashed to the same price as before, making you believe you were saving something valuable if you weren't paying attention. As I pushed my cart through the crowded aisles trying not to run anyone over, I saw women with their baskets full of milk and bread, women who picked out food instead of frozen dinners, and I imagined a life of abundance and grace. I couldn't help but pine for an existence in which I didn't spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about every morsel of food I put in my mouth and what it might do to increase my thighs.

I walked the aisles, not knowing exactly what I needed. Alone, I couldn't imagine what to do, so I got my Cokes, went to the frozen food section, threw a few Healthy Choices in the cart for later, and dragged everything to the U-Scan so I wouldn't have to deal with a real person, just the electronic scanner telling me what each item cost.

After unloading the sacks into my trunk, I thought about leaving the cart in the lot instead of dragging it all the way back to its designated place. Even giving it a shove and setting it free. Then I thought about the person who would have to retrieve all the carts, how I would be sinning against someone, a sad person who had to work late into the night because others couldn't do their part. So I didn't, even though I was tempted.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I loved being outside. We'd hold lightning bugs in our fingers and pretend they were diamond rings." Loretta Lynn (This one is for Charles and Lana because of their beautiful love affair and the great pictures that Lana takes of the gorgeous nature around the place they live.)

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: Okay, this is a hint to all menfolk, via my old buddy Hank: If you start to hear the Erykah Badu records come out on continous rotation, run. Your relationship is in dire trouble and the drinks and the girlfriend rant (customary sharing of all your faults (and I mean all of them with lots of embellishments) with their girlfriends are soon to follow). Beware!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On The Steps Of St. Something

Hi readers! For the next few days, I'm going to be posting a story titled "On The Steps Of St. Something." It first appeared in Blue Mesa Review. Thanks for reading!

On the Steps of St. Something

Once I believed that I heard the voice of God through the Texas heat. It was August, a month of dying grass, endless sun, rodeos, long nights. I was drawing on the sidewalk with a rock and a voice from the sky yelled, "Out of Chute 3, it's John Roberts riding Black Thunder." I was disappointed that this didn't seem to apply to me in any specific way. Even then, I was looking for signs on how to live.

The last time I went home with a stranger, All Hallow's Eve the year I was twenty-nine, was no exception. I spent many hours grading freshman essays in the commons at the community college in Detroit where I teach comp. Students passed, some holding hands with children wearing Halloween costumes. My office has no windows, so the only movement in the room is the screen saver, a beautiful aquarium motif. I love aquariums, but fish are another story altogether. Years ago, I wanted to recreate the ocean floor without fish so I poured ten pounds of dirt into a tank and waited for it to settle. For three months, I had fifty gallons of dirty water in my bedroom. All mistakes should be so obvious.

So I prefer to sit in the commons where I can watch the piles of dead leaves swirl and afternoon fade into evening, the change bringing a coldness so biting that I couldn't have predicted it when I was young. About midway through my stacks of essays, I came upon the following sentence: "I had to dig a profound hole." I thought of this particular student, a middle-aged man with a closed head injury and a newly acquired thesaurus. He did not say what he meant to say, but I did not mark him down. I knew what it was to dig a profound hole. I had broken up with my boyfriend and found it impossible to sleep alone at night. My doctor prescribed sleeping pills, but refused to give out any more until I saw a psychiatrist. There were, he feared, dependency issues.

My first thought in reaction, "Yes, and?" would not have reassured him. And no matter how much I loathe the thought of talking to strangers when I'm sober, I needed the pills or I ended up sleeping with people I let pick me up in bars. I had no more pills left. I'd made an appointment with a psychiatrist the next afternoon, but that left the one night with nothing.

When I go out with the purpose of picking someone up, I try to avoid bars near campus. I believe in keeping the teacher persona pure, but sometimes the other stories leak in. Once I loaned a lit student a copy of a collection of Joyce Carol Oates short stories, forgetting that the inscription said, "To Alexa, that gorgeous nymphet of my fantasies." I remember that particular person's fantasies, imaginative and vile, and let the student keep the book.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Sometimes you meet people and you feel like you've known them for a long time." John Cusack

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: Lubbock (On Everything) Terry Allen

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 14, 2008

My Husband's Closet

Hi readers! The semester has been a doozy, but it's coming to an end, yes? I hope everyone is hanging in there, no matter what job you have. I'm on this domestic violence kick, given that my only joy these days is locking myself in my office and reading Hedda Nussbaum's memoir (Surviving Intimate Terrorism) about her days with old Joel Steinberg. This poem first appeared in Taproot.

My Husband’s Closet

Looking for what I could not imagine,
I found a dildo in my husband’s closet,
its harsh reality making me forget
what I came for. Is there a saint
to make you not know something? I asked
my newly converted friend on the phone,
after telling my story. No, she said, but
Jack Daniels will do. God loves us
in many different ways. I’m sure there
will be more, the Internet porn bills I’ll
find, that I will lose myself to his secrets
before I can stop. I once heard a man
at a party say, All men want to fuck
a woman who looks like a little girl. I looked
down at my glass of red wine, almost
empty and went back for more even though
I knew I would be sick in the morning.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"What we need is more people who specialize in the impossible." Theodore Roethke

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: Listen to The Carpenters' "Rainy Days and Mondays" over and over again. If this doesn't make you drink, I don't know what will.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday1!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Walk Into Walls

I once posed as a battered woman for a newspaper article on domestic abuse. I could do fear and self-loathing so well that nobody even recognized me in the photo. There was a big gap between the happy girl I seemed to be and my secret life. A lot of people have it; artists learn to manipulate it and live there so long that they don't know anything else. Because what we believe to be true of ourselves is so often not. Know a lot of women who say they wouldn't stay around if a man hit them and did and do and find themselves on the end of a fist, hiding bruises, walking into walls. My grandmother was one of these women and her favorite books were romance novels, those gauzy unfoldings of love and sorrow wrapped up in a happy ending.

My friend Melissa used to have a theory that married couples lost their sight as they got older so they could see each other as they were when they were young, that they never saw the reality of time's ravages. I never ever bought this line. But a black eye can change your perspective. Some internal bleeding followed by a honeymoon period where there's nothing but love. I offer you this; I have often been hit, but more by myself than anyone else, and I'm as clever as any garden variety abuser who follows the cardinal rule -- never where you can see it.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"A l lot of films I've done are essentially about women who are finding their voice, women who don't know themselves well." Meg Ryan

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Ruby In Paradise

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Sunday! Thanks for all the great comments on the post about the girl in Target. I'm sure that everyone who commented about worrying about saying things to their children are excellent parents. I'm just sad about the culture that continues to make women hate their bodies, whatever size and shape. Both the mother and daughter are victims of this bullshit. Like my dear Miss Jodi said, Best to forget about it and share a bottle of wine! Life is short -- enjoy/flaunt/eat.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Angry Spider

Hi readers! Hope you're having a very happy Saturday! xoxo, until tomorrow!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Make Yourself Small

Hi there! This poem first appeared in Permafrost.

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.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I have accepted fear as a part of life - specifically the fear of change... I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back." Erica Jong

Cocktail Hour
Drinking writing book suggestion: Seducing The Demon Erica Jong

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Written On The Body

The other day at Target I overheard a woman and her pre-teen daughter talking about clothes. "I can't wear shorts," the mother said. "I'm fat." The mother wasn't fat, not by a longshot, and the daughter had her mother's very normal healthy build. "But I wear them sometimes," the daughter said. "Do I look fat?" And the mother told her yes and went about her business browsing through the clearance racks, full of everything from tiny little swimsuits to maternity wear, all of it thrown together like yesterday's news. I felt sad for the girl, sad that she'd already had a lesson in body shame and misery. I could see her mentally checking shorts off the list of clothes she would not be wearing in this life. Her mother had hissed the word fat the way some people say prison, like it's a moral failing.

Today I stood on my head without the help of another person or a wall. It was a watershed moment; I could see myself and everyone else from another perspective which I try to do all the time as a writer and a teacher. And I felt bad about all the hate that I have heaped on my poor body over the years. I mean, has it been so bad to me? Eventually I came out of my pose and returned to my mat. I remembered all the phases after my rape where I dressed in big, baggy clothes to hide it, the way I starved it at times, all that self-punishment for nothing. And even so it still can do things I never thought it would be able to do, like headstands. And as I write this, I'm wearing a pair of shorts even though it's cold and rainy outside. For the girl in Target and all the girls who worry when they shouldn't.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people." Carl Jung

Cocktail Hour
Drinking upcoming movie suggestion: Smart People
Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

This Is Your Last Chance

Here's the poem for the day! It 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.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I come from Detroit where it's rough and I'm not a smooth talker." Eminem

Cocktail Hour
Drinking novel suggestion: Bastard Out Of Carolina Dorothy Allison

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Like Nothing Has Happened


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 an 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.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Some American writers who have known each other for years have never met in the daytime or when both were sober." James Thurber

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: The Company Of Men

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 07, 2008


Hi readers! I'll be back tomorrow with a regular blog. For now, I leave you with this poem which first appeared 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.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself." Jacques Yves Cousteau

Cocktail Hour
Drinking television suggestion: The Secret Lives Of Women

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Damage Deposit

Damage Deposit

We are forced to give back all our keys, even
the ones we made ourselves, instructed to leave
as few traces as we can, although there are stains
that won’t come out from parties that didn’t want
to end, shadows of white where pictures hung. I fear
we won’t get anything back, that we have been here
too long. After we leave for the last time, I realize
that I didn’t make a final check and have left a chain
and some garnet stones in a bathroom cabinet, gifts
that I never got a chance to wear, wondering who
will find them, red against all the worn antiseptic
white, the only evidence that things were not always
the way we left them before shutting the door for the last time.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I've played three presidents, three saints and two geniuses - and that's probably enough for any man." Charlton Heston

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Thirteen

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Hi readers! Here are the Saturday pictures. Hope you're having a great weekend!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Darkness, Dawn


Something has happened and I am no longer
your have to have. You have faded like
light. I worry too much and not enough,
and the past gazes without mercy. I have
often told stories to mark the place,
the moment when everyone spoke in tongues,
descent, arise, wake. But what of the moments
that do not have this? What about you so
beautiful even as you leave me? Darkness,
dawn, it’s all the same since the change.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"There's only two people in your life you should lie to... the police and your girlfriend." Jack Nicholson

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: Smell The Magic L7

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Stay Warm And Write When You Can

So I get my lazy ass out of bed for yoga this morning, feeling a little worse for the wear (thank you two glasses of J&B scotch!), and tell myself it will be good for me. The yoga teacher at my gym, Donnie, often says a lot of groovy, new age things that keep me going through a routine (You're either growing or dying is a personal favorite) so I'm game when he asks the class if we want to try something new. My hearing isn't the greatest so I think he says, Line yoga and I'm all over that, yeah, yoga in a line, why not? but he has said blind yoga and all of a sudden I realize that I will have to keep my eyes closed for the entire class as an exercise in trust, intuition, and feeling my way through poses, not just doing them. Oh sweet Jesus. The room is freezing cold thanks to the fact that the furnace has taken this moment to die which Donnie takes as what people now refer to as a "teachable" moment. "You can feel the chill more intensely with your eyes closed." Indeed he is right. I'm cold, tired, and off balance, ready to fall on my ass at any moment. I sense my dead blind friend's spirit (Hank or the Hankster as my dad used to call him) is having some major ha has! at my expense.

But I'm stuck with myself as we all are, in the worst and best of times. Fight my way through the class and don't open my eyes. Donnie positions us against each other for the balance poses and tells us we're all a ship and not to take down the ship. We are not, he says, the Titanic. I don't have the slightest clue who I am touching which I'd like to say is a new situation for me, but hey, who am I kidding? I've been down this road before. Just not in a yoga class. I try not to laugh because Donnie is so earnest (You should vacuum with a blindfold and earplugs to see how it would feel to be without those senses. It's a way of learning courage.) I'm black and blue on a good day from running into stuff. Donnie's exercise might kill me! But for the rest of the day, I feel better than ever. I had my eyes closed for an hour in a cold, dark room with some creepy-ass hissing music with snake rattles in the background. I thought my nerves would be shot. But I'm happy to see again and to be near my space heater working on my memoir. Hank's last written words to me were Stay warm and write when you can. Which I'm trying to do.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold." Helen Keller

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Dan In Real Life
Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Trouble Man

In honor of Marvin Gaye's birthday, I offer this poem first published in Freefall.

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.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else." Marvin Gaye

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: Trouble Man

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Romeo and Juliet

In honor of April Fool's Day (and the great Marvin Gaye's death day), I will post a poem by Richard Brautigan instead of my regular post for all my dear friends who love the underrated RB. Hope you're having a great day!

Romeo and Juliet

If you die for me,
I will die for you

and our graves will
be like two lovers washing
their clothes together
in a laundromat.

If you will bring the soap,
I will bring the bleach.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you." Roger Ebert

Cocktail Hour
Drinking music suggestion: The Devil's Rejects Lynard Skynard

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!