Monday, December 29, 2008

Ukrainian Christmas in October

Hi folks, The Coast published a short edited excerpt from my novel for its annual Christmas holiday fiction issue. Click the picture to the left to read it.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008


"the trouble with Flann O'Toole had to do with two things: his preoccupation with being such a disgustingly uproarious broth of a boy, and the fact that his middle name was Napoleon. An Irish Napoleon was a concept so grotesque it had to end up like O'Toole. O'Toole made potato whisky in a back room and seduction attempts upon the person of every female who entered the Elbaroom; he swore oaths regularly and broke promises unfeelingly; he was prone to fits of violent temper, but thought himself a reasonable man; he was likely at any moment of the day or night to keel over in an alcoholic stupor, but he considered himself a man of power; he was carried to his bed every night in a haze of obscenity and vomit, but he was convinced he was a leader in the community; he quoted poetry as he did ugly things." --Salman Rushdie [master of characterization]

At first it’s a slow leak,
nothing to panic about.
We watch the game
after a brief call to the midwife,
who is concerned by the snow
barricading her country home.

To bed for now,
in our basement bedroom.

4 am comes too early.
My between-contraction naps
become too brief and frequent.
Then pop.
Bags of waters,
which protected this 9-month concept,
down the drain.
Still no midwife.

5 am the shrieking begins;
there’s blood on the floor.
A slightly panicked call to the midwife,
who says in the face of rapid dilation,
to stay low and calm -
no shrieking.

Just low moans,
at the buffalo frequency,
bouncing on your birth ball.

Fill the tub.
Muddy bloodied waters.
No problem,
as long as it’s warm
in the cold
and cool in the heat.

Stay low and calm
at the buffalo frequency.

Help me,
you whisper your scream.
We’re only 2 hours in.

Stay low and calm
at the buffalo frequency.

You can do this,
I mock confidence.
And then we’ll have a baby.

Where’s the midwife?
Your query
more rhythmic than contractions.

Friends come first,
with a breakfast to go cold
as they boil water,
like a 60s sitcom birth.
Filling our birth pool
by the fire they built
in our living room.

Where’s the midwife?

Stay low and calm
at the buffalo frequency.
Tepid water over contracting belly,
moaning low.
300 liquid scoops
cool the pain
until it gets worse,
and you push them away
as the midwife arrives.

I feel like I want to push.

No don’t do that!
quoth the ignorant partner.

The voice of experience
searches for cervix,
finds nothing,
says, it’s all natural.
You’re ready to go.

So up we go,
you staggering, punch-drunk
like a lopsided prizefighter
begging to throw in the towel.

Nobody can do this but you,
and guess what, you’re doin’ it.
You will get this baby in your arms,
she informs you, her lips taut
like the memory of a cigarette,
her voice all silken dominatrix.
Now push!

You scream your war cry.
Forget low and calm,
to hell with buffaloes.
You sweat methane.
Arm in arm we squat,
your full weight on me,
fire in our legs
and on our skin.
My back breaks,
as the pool is filled
with 37-degree water.

You climb in
but you won’t take my hand,
just ice-water.
Ice-water to forehead,
ice-water to lips,
to throat, then spilled
under a small slice of sea.
My hand is freed
For shoulder neck massage.

You wail, just short of ululation.
Your language is clear,
your cries reverential.
This is not the time to be crass,
though the neighbours think
you are being tortured.

The baby responds with a crown.
You can’t see it.
Anticipation fills the room,
like a back-alley yodel
you’re so close, Mama,
we all agree.
But you aren’t impressed
by the sliver of emergent hair.
I’m so far away.
Can I quit now?

Low moans,
buffalo frequency.

Seven more warriors cry.
Seven more uterine contracts.
Your baby’s face is slipping through,
and my hands are placed for the pull,
but the shoulder is stuck as we heave,
and it’ll surely break with such force,
our biceps one way
your contorted primal writhing
the other.

I can only whimper and cry,
as this marathon miracle 1st prize
passes through my hands, head-first
into the rivulet between your breasts.
Legs are spread to see
his swollen testicles dangling.
It’s a boy, my little baby boy!
But you already knew that.
My shoulders heaving tears,
your face a sheet of white shock.
What just happened?

The radio sings:
I’m Here
for You

A smile washes over my body.
He looks like me.
He looks like you.
A smile washes over my body,
blocks my fears
of tyrannical fatherhood.

We kiss,
each other and him,
our lips his cheeks.

Just sculpted lines between mother and child
have blurred and blended again,
leaving a singular hope.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Stuck in a Mall

"Environmentalists have gotten their politics backward. For too long they have demanded that Americans Wake Up! rather than encouraging them to dream." --Nordhaus & Shellenberger



Stuck in a mall.
Instrumental Christmas carols
looping ear to ear.
Dazzling white light displays
flashing eye to eye.
Fat broiler boiling over
wafting nostril to nostril.
Snow proof warehouse boots dragging,
eyelids blinking slow
at the product kaleidoscope.

There is a list in my pocket
next to the plastic,
and a clock ticking to 5.
If it gets there
before the list is ticked
my in-laws won’t love me.

No time for my nagging questions,
wondering what it’s all for,
where it was all made,
where it goes when novelty fades
like a catalogue model’s allure.
She and the swag lost
their battle with time.
I can’t suffer that fate.
My wife would kill me
if I succumbed to wax philosophies
and missed my plastic deadline.

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