Sunday, December 14, 2008

Harper and Scout

Just finished reading Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird" and I enjoyed it so much that I'm baffled why it took me decades to get around to it. As a kid, I loved the black and white film when it aired on some rare Saturday via cable TV. The box of finds from the tree hole. The mad dog. Calpurnia. The trial. Racial tensions. Small town taboos and traditions. Boo Radley. I always watched it. Since I generally tend to opt for non-fiction when I read, it's not too surprising. When I do pick fiction, I want real. I'll read to feel steeped in an atmosphere, a place or a moment in history which is why I love Willa Cather, who wove stories out of threads of her own life, peopled with characters who seemed to have actually existed. Now, like thousands of readers before me I'm sure, I am fascinated with this book's reclusive author, Harper Lee. I wonder about her life story. Is she Scout? Did she know an Atticus? How much of the picture she painted grew out of her own experience? In the book store yesterday I saw a hardcover the words "I Am Scout" blazoned across it. There's an answer. A biographic work about Lee by Charles J. Shields written with young people in mind. I think I'll have to read it or his "adult" version "Mockingbird".

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Goddess Faire

Herbs, tinctures, soaps and lotions, cordials and elixirs, amulets and talismans, bee sweets and candles, velvets and soft galactic armor, beautiful medicine, powerful prayers, sensual dancers, strong-throated singers, maids, mamas and crones, goddesses and their lovers...all shimmering under one roof. There is really nothing like the annual Goddess Faire in Sebastopol. Nourishing on many levels. I haven't done it for a few years and didn't know what to expect with the ailing economy but I was surprisingly overwhelmed by the deep appreciation and support of my work. It was a pleasure to share with kindred souls. Eden and her friend Zoe premiered their Bollywood dancing on stage before a loving audience and performed with grace and aplomb despite a mixup with the music. Countless prints, several small canvases and a large giclee found new homes. I did my part as well to keep the wheels of commerce humming, which is easy to do when there are so many seductive offerings. A born patron of beauty, I want to buy it all! But I was moderate (for me) and contented myself with small plums and generous trades. The best was a tiny bottle of rosolio d'amore from Luna oil infused with Cecile Brunner roses, my totem flower, a drop of which Annabella rubbed into the skin over my heart. Hello! (Dab the soles of the feet before bed and sleep like a baby-which I did) Copper hoops, honey truffles, jasmine cream, cacao cordial, vintage rhinestone earrings...sigh. So, my dry well was filled. Thank you all kind and generous beauties. You satiate me.

Photo: Young Goddesses: Eden, Zoe and Paisley.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Black Eagles and Angels

I am publishing here, with permission, two poems by my collaborator and creative cohort, Amy Trussell. We were fellow travelers on our recent trip to New Orleans where she was runner up for the Faulkner Society literary prize for poetry. Glimmers of our experience thread throughout both of these and I am flattered that one of them, Erzulie's Protégé, was written for me (!)

Black Eagles and Angels

Their throats always remain open once they decide to come forth-
The angels' trumpets that graced our door,
Our temporary holding place, halfway boarded up
When last we dipped into New Orleans.
These white ones are kin to the more state-altering blooms
that hold their seductive skirts and quilled pods
in vales of the Wild West.
Plots are there for the untameable and the cultivated too.
Even if you are in a place with opaque windows,
say in a dive waiting for Mardi Gras Indians to practice,
or a house that almost succumbed to hurricanes,
you can sense what is out there anyway, blue police light,
people on the streetcar full of desires, thinly veiled,
people making love and dying all over town.
This essence is what we drop under the tongue
when someone is going over the threshold to the other world.
It helps them row the light-flooded water back.
The African seer had told me there are ancestors
waiting to drum you into the other side.
So when you hear the Black Eagles call Indian Red,
you understand that this is the energy that could take you
over the edge, out past the bayous to heaven
where the shell games are played.
But it's also that which might bring you back,
down the funnel of the channeled flower, as deep
as night is long, waiting to turn itself out.
Some tribes say that zero is magic, the place to start over.
So if you get there and find yourself lost in a shotgun
apartment, you must turn to the creamy perfume
of the death-easers, then go inside, down the dark hall,
though your reptilian brain wants to flee your own grief
and the grief of the village too.
Pick up the dead lizard and wrap it in the kerchief for the altar.
Then twist on the water and let the sadness pour from
all that had begun to kink up the smooth muscle of the heart.
Cover your wounds in red earth and smother your pulse
points with come-to-me oil.
Blow out the candle, the hawk rests in a yard tree,
another refugee from the vortex.
I don't know what would happen if you dropped angels'
remedy beneath the roof of your mouth and kissed someone.
Are you willing to give yourself over that much?
After you make your X, will you stand in a crumbling cemetery
with arms outstretched, waiting for one or the other to set you free?

Amy Trussell, November 2008

Photo: A white Angels' Trumpet outside our "temporary holding place" in New Orleans.

Erzulie's Protégé

Erzulie's Protégé

For Krista Lynn Brown

The ritual party tray is out for Dia de los Muertes

with love potion and heart opener cordials.
We drink some of both, and the rims of
our glasses pulse in the black light glow of the dance parlor.
Historians say that Marie Antoinette had a mold
of her breasts cast then made into wine cups.
The royal glass blower tonged them out of fire
then held the curved vessels up like a satisfied God
placing two moons in the pitch night.
My sister would take a lantern and find her way to the barn
to milk the goats before dawn arched across the horizon.
When she got high enough, Sally Ride could see meteorites
burning out below them and now there’s ninety percent proof
that once there were bayous on Mars, warm and moist.
Looking at her lunar paintings of jungles and the women
that dwell there, it seems that she has been a cosmonaut too.
Or has at least seen a crash site retrieval conference,
launching crafts from her drawing pad.
Whenever you are down she will morph into "Space Girl"
and hit you with a love ray.
It’s two a.m. and she sits at a black canvass, wells of paint
before her at the left hand, brush loaded with burnt sienna.
Earth opens to the ink of heaven pouring in.
This is the season when Persephone fell into the opening
to come up later, stealing away pomegranate
seeds from near the molten core.
Venus rises in the skylight of her studio,
illuminated too with candlelight from her altar where
photos of her grandfather, Frida Kahlo, & her outbound cat
open the gates and keep the pulse.
She leans in, unafraid to travel the trenches, the ruins,
to be there on location spelling out the names of the
beloved dead with a sparkler.
If you write it backwards it will come out forward
to the Heyokas galloping by on their dark horses.
All night she dips into the face of lunar deities, her eyes
searching the craters for the unseen ones.
What ferments in the caves can be good, and shows up at
the reception, a vision of Erzulie with a catfish,
wines from the Valley of The Moon, wheels of pungent cheese.
Whoever said white Russians, paint and magic
can’t issue from the same hand at once?

Thanks to Melissa Weaver for the sparklers

Amy Trussell, November 2008

Photo par moi: Altar to Erzulie. French Quarter, New Orleans