Fairy Tales and Buses


The most beautiful woman sits across from me on the bus. Arched eyebrows, skin the color of dark caramel.  Cream scarf caught around her neck and jacket with a ruffled collar that I would, in no way, be able to wear.  I expect her to get off at the first stop, or the second, but as I leave she remains seated, she moves along the arteries of the city and disappears. 

Downtown, the tops of the buildings are caught in mist.  Grey day in Seattle, no surprises there.  It seems a day for magic, for things to happen.  I am not the beautiful girl on the bus, but she exists and I know nothing about her, I will never see her again.  She is perfect in my unknowing.


The cherry blossoms are giving way to leaves, and white petals shower off of trees I cannot name.  Dogwood? Myrtle? Last night a man told me he remembered kissing my neck, the salty taste of my skin.  He could have waxed poetic; told me about oceans and brine and the way our bodies are like water, continually renewing.  He didn’t.  I remember the collision of our bodies differently–the night thin above our bodies, the way I wanted to claw out of everything.  Depression is a funny thing, so thick and present when caught in a backwards glance.


I have been told I am like the wind, moving constantly. A creature of air and current. I remember my mythology, my fairy tales.  There are so many winds, drawn with puffed cheeks and billowing beards.  The wicked and cold North winds, the warm and kind South winds.  Wind that is caught carefully in a sack and released at the wrong time, wind that carries forlorn brides to distant lands, repentant and clutching tallow stained shirts.  East of the sun, west of the moon.  To the ends of the earth.


Outside the flags barely move, they shift limply on their poles, they hang listlessly.  The glass walls let in fogged light only slightly paler than the grey carpet, than the off-white metal girders.  My body is not wind, is not water, is not anything but sitting here, solidly in a corner.  I want to know where the woman was going, I half expect her to walk past me here, clutching a museum map, her reflection multiplied across the metal skin of planes.  She has vanished into the city, beyond the city.  She is drinking coffee, her lips marking the edge of the paper cup.  She is reading a book, turning each page slowly.


I remember my fairytales.  A girl wanders into the woods following the next flower.  Clutching her treasures to her breast she is lost and confused and at the periphery wolf-teeth glint.  Skin the color of fresh snow, lips the color of blood.  The horse head that speaks to the goose-girl, a hidden princess.  In fairytales, there are central characters and the background fades into a tangle of brambles, into the vast ocean between the house of the sun and the house of the moon.  Would I be Snow White, that princess Aurora, or would I be a maid simply cleaning the flagstones as sleep descends in its spell-filled cloud?


[I have begun to write at work. My real job at my paying job. The language is a bit stilted, the threads meandering, but at least I am keeping my mind active.  I don’t know what use most of it has, so I suspect it will end up here.]




rainbow from the bus corridor

Today I find myself tired of ether.  Of science speculation.

But numbers.  Music as abstract math- that is fascinating.  I should have paid more attention to the cascade of geometry. To the angles and formulas, the delicate pattern.  If music is abstract math, is there an x solution?  I’m not sure I want there to be.  I like it more as a fractal, the pieces subdividing into smaller of the same.  The notes as bricks.  Or smaller, as pebbles on a cobble beach, as sand beneath the pebbles.  As snow flakes building in clouds until the right saturation and down they fall.  But so slowly. Then the melt and the rejoining and it’s all water in the end.  Music as life-sustaining force.  As fractal beneath the leaf pattern.  It makes a certain amount of sense; the rhythm of pulse is in everything we touch.  The potter pulls his heart-trace into clay as the vase forms, the writer’s pen shifts with breath.  The small numbers build into chords and there: emerging from your throat is the song built by all of these small pieces, the sum but not the solution.  I don’t think there’s an x. 


The things I am learning through simple conversation. Mechanics and machinery and the small bits of numbers.  How magical a constant velocity joint sounds, like an alchemical instrument made of glass and steam.  I know it is more base than this, but the words of it amaze me.  I am easily amazed.  And I like to think of the inner workings, the bolts and the sheets of metal of different gauges, the liquids contained within.  We are not so different, really.  Hollow tube of a throat, vibration emanating as voice. Our broken pieces are sometimes easy to fix- a Band-Aid over bloodied knee, balm smoothed over burnt skin.  Sometimes trickier, the shifting bruises of heartache with no place to point and say: here, mend. 


Fountain at the parkI want to know more about the mechanical universe.  I am an eager science student with a thin grasp of theory, but I am learning.   


Perhaps this is why my work so often deals clinically with bodies.  Breaking apart and slicing open, examining the ligaments that keep us together.  Taking a knife blade to soft flesh to find the bits beneath. Tracing ribcage to spine and back around to collar bone, to clavicle.  Perhaps this is why I find wrists alluring- the thin bones delicate but strong, the movement so visible beneath thin sheet of skin. 

I still haven’t written an assignment from a friend; my own poetry manifesto.  But even attempting to begin has taught me more about my own aesthetic and the weak points contained in my poems.  I am learning how to locate my place-holders, my easy phrases.  I wonder how mechanical elements will begin to work into my words.  It might become a nice counter-point to ether. 

Making Tea

japanese float

While my telling blows aimed off at illusory skies you made tea, today’s not at all imaginary Earl Grey.  Which is the most magical thing of all, my today friend. Not making a big to-do, making tea.  

Hélène Cixous The Book of Promethea

I’ve forgotten most of the French I knew, but I remember French class in high school with Miss Wub.  I made a lot of chamomile tea and drank it from a plastic yellow mug with Emma.  We had to choose “French names” and I remember happily slashing the accents over my chosen Thérèse on grammar quizzes.  The next year I wanted to switch to Mona but it wasn’t a French-enough name, so I became Monique Thérèse.  

Now I find myself reading translated French and wishing I could remember enough to read the original text.  I also wonder what happened to Monique Thérèse.  She was so young then, sipping her tea and juggling her bags and books, pink Doc Martens and an old army coat thrown over the chair, hair chopped and dyed, makeup too bright. 

I’m reading the submissions for Moravian’s Lebensfeld Upper Writing competition, and so far they are all beautiful.  The work might need editing, but they are so full of vulnerability and insecurity I can’t help but find them beautiful.  I tried to explain it to a coworker, the pages strewn about me in the break room, but I ended up rambling about burnt sugar coatings.   What I meant to describe with my metaphor: the golden sugar cage I made once for a cake.   I dripped the candy over a bowl and let it harden, and the cage sat above a white lilly cake I made.  At least, it was supposed to.  I don’t think it worked as intended.  But that’s what these stories are: latticed words that hover close above, touching down in places.  Easily shattered.

I know that I’m not that far away from these students.  Their work is beautiful to me because I can see all of the steps I took along the same paths, the ways I was terrified and self-delusional and egotistical and shy; the ways I still am all of those things.  

Oh Monique Thérèse.  If I could go back and tell you anything, I don’t know that I would.  You have to make your mistakes, you have to write your terrible but heartfelt poems, you have to hurt and love and dance and laugh.  And you have to forget French.  I’m sorry, but I’m not at all.  Enjoy your tea.