My Condolences

Dear Jon,

I am so sorry to hear about Victor.  I’m lousy at expressing condolence.

I am anticipating a phone call about one of my brothers or sisters – essentially a family member that I have grown to dislike or they dislike me – no matter how close we were when we were children.  A call about a family member who began and ended references about me with, “What is she doing now?”  I perplex them with all my projects and shenanigans.  A family member who could not possibly appreciate the personality of an INTJ – confusing alone with loneliness.

At the end of the day, it is not about me.  When we go home — family puts us to rest.  Not your BFFs, your hundreds and thousands of FB friends who like everything you like, your brothers and sisters from another mother and father, your innumerable half-sisters, half-brothers and cousins who were not there when you were growing up – but somehow you were twins, random shopkeepers at spas who talk to your baby in mandarin — your baby hangs on every word and seems to understand, not the concierges, your neighbors, coworkers, managers, bishops or priests.  Your family puts you in the ground.

Your family makes sure you are wearing your favorite shoes, that you are wearing a whole and not a half-slip – even though you have never owned a whole slip.  Why?  Because it’s regulation, it’s mandated by the State!  Your family makes sure you are wearing your shade of lipstick, and the wig on your head is straight, the part is in the right place and despite the protestations of the mortician, the bangs are swept wistfully in the right direction.  Your friends give you brand new bibles to take to the pearly gates. Your family settles your estate — if you have one — cleans your home, takes possession of or finds a good will or thrift store for your belongings.

Oh, your friends will offer their condolences, show up for the funeral, sign the guest book, send a sympathy basket, donate to a charity, ask if there is anything they can do, say pretty thoughtful things about you, go to the repast – and that will be the end of it.  The last time you see them.  Your BFFs are not going to your gravesite to leave flowers on milestones and Christmas.  No.

That is what family is for.  The family you perhaps did not respect, did not value, and could not abide because you were not equally yoked.  Yes, I am waiting on that phone call, that text – so I can put that family member to rest, take my turn at the podium and say, “I anticipated a phone call about one of my brothers or sisters, because apparently this is what family is for…”

I am glad the call was not about you!  I would not have been able to write this letter with a steady hand.  Perhaps you might share it with your family.  It was oddly salubrious.  RIP Donnie “S”.

All the Best,

D

Copyright 2014 E Maria Shelton Speller.  All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Godforsaken

Before the godforsaken

had time to swallow…

they knew who first

judged what out of dreams

came truly real*

and he was fastened to a rock

and they knew who

stirreth up the people and dippeth his hand**

in the dish with Judas

and he was nailed to a cross

And they read books within books

about wise and foolish virgins

and signs of the end

and love and judgment

and they heard God talk

through the mouths of men

who talked about him

his son and the holy ghost

 

When spectators provided the notion of reality

Christ and Prometheus

were objectified and subjectified allegory

spheres of hope and rebellion

courage and prudence

temperance and justice

and how they chose to read it

in the time before terror

depended on what level

they chose to see it

 

Pity

incredible people and prophets

who function as vehicle

for literal, moral,

and anagogical levels of meaning

 

Before the godforsaken

had time to swallow…

they reused and refashioned the heads

of emperors in their own image

because they could

they reinforced power and authority

with legitimate political imagery

like the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses

and General Holofernes

They respected the classical past

in fertile crescents of greed

and they rejected classical design

in the center of ruins

 

They housed the rock in the dome

on which Muhammad ascended to heaven

and hung the Virgin Mary’s blue robe

in Chartres Cathedral

and it didn’t burn

and they appropriated columns

and Corinthian capitals

and called it the holy triumph

of Islam

 

When denizens of form said

Nothing is new…

The godforsaken asked,

Since when?

since the Lion Gate

since the Great Sphinx of Gizeh

since Doric and Ionic orders

since the Palette of King Narmer

since the Parthenon

since Stonehenge

Since when?

 

They stood in the light of starry nights

in the drum, coffers, and concrete cylinders

of uninterrupted space in the Pantheon

and made no apologies for ripping off

master tracks from the past

and heard the hip hop train

sampling every post-hit

with unripe music and blood

and mounted the heads of gods

on the manifest

like the catalog of procreation

in Genesis

 

They heard his Mother

three blocks away

on parallel streets

screaming redundantly

You won’t take my child!

You won’t take my child!

at the vigil where transvestites

whispered about how many times

her child was stabbed in the neck…

 

Lord have mercy!

Who are these motherfuckers?

on the bottom rung of the Ladder of Descent

trying to climb up

on the backs of allegories

floating in fleeting and airy hope

part of the story

part of the sin

 

Before the godforsaken

had time to swallow…

 

He knew

that love ends

as it begins again

on rocks and crosses

in books and dreams

and politics and imagery

under domes and temples

in music and song

and blood and death

in stories and sin

and in the hands

of God

~ the Swallows are building.

 

Copyright 2004, 2013 E Maria Shelton Speller. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

*Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound

** Matthew 26: V21,V22,V23,V25

 

 

The Foreword to Insomnia

Like all writers, I rewrite, combine, borrow, loot, recreate, change my own work, and play with metafictional devices and the relationship between what is real and what is imagined.  I combined “TP’s Muse Board” with “The Foreword to Insomnia.”  Perhaps it will be a triptych, or perhaps three panels of an octaptych,  a short story, novella, or perhaps a novel.  It’s a WIP.

The Foreword to Insomnia

 

“All our crimes are the crimes of a phantom:  God.”  Octavio Paz

 

I

Is the girl necessary?  Can you abandon her?  Yes and no.    She’s the curtain-lifter and the scout!  Always.  I cannot forget her.  I was there, talking to myself, as if I were someone else.  Like now.

She’s as necessary as the galoshes on her feet, paused in a puddle, with her binary reflection obscured by polka-dots, vector and speckled umbrellas billowing from ordinary windows like parachutes, or the multi-colored aureoles in the virtual vertigo — of an art installation.

She is as necessary as umbrellas on a rainy afternoon under golden arches and digital displays of saucer eyed anime faces in Tokyo during rush-hours, or the dark city around the corner with a hole in the ground — over rainy subway stairs she lost a galosh on.

II

When she was nine, and her sister seven, they shared a bedroom in the attic of an old Victorian house, in New England.  They loved that pink triangular room, and the imaginary line that equally divided that sanctum, and it was not lost on them, that they were far removed from their extended paternal family, parents and the Irish triplets who shared a room of their own — downstairs.

It was not just the physical detachment, but on the heels of “making believe,” they began to transport each other to fictional realities at bedtime that began with a question, followed by an answer and finally a bidding, “What are you doing?”  “I’m thinking.”  “What are you thinking about?”

Her stories would often begin with something truly extraordinary.  Diana Ross had ten kids in 1964!  She was twenty years old and married to Jorge — the Ebony Fashion Fair model who was the most beautiful man she had ever seen, and one of Diana’s children was her fourth grade classmate — a Puerto Rican named, Sorah Sanchez.  He told his classmates to call him Willie.  He was so cute!

Theirs was the perfect family!  Jorge wore gray suede shoes and cardigans advertised in Jet and Ebony magazines, and the children wore clothing from Alden and Spiegel catalogs!   Images were accessible and appropriated. The stories epic and uninterrupted — unless clarification was necessary, like “What time do the kids have to go to bed?”

She loved The Supremes!  In the Sixties, Diana Ross was a delicate and beautiful remix, of freedom from ugly restraint.   She could scan a page for “Diana Ross” and find her like code.  Ditty Bop!  She could imitate her voice, her tone, inflection, her vibrato, choreography and her mannerisms!

In the Summer of 1965, she sang A cappella, “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Stop in the Name of Love,” and “Come See About Me,” on a makeshift stage in her back yard, and became an accidental star with a teenaged fan base; but, she just wanted to be left alone to adore Diana Ross — the beautiful one!  Those oral narratives in the dark — were contiguous, on a continuum, interconnected — in medias res.

III

At seventeen she hadn’t seen her Father in four or five years.  Her mother and six children took the last bus to a safe haven twelve hundred miles from Boston.  But, when father walked into her home, the house her mother managed to “negotiate” by “befriending” the most unattractive man she had ever seen… and barely past the threshold, he said, “I know, I know, I know, and I know.”

It was the most honest response she’d ever heard.  It made sense.  No apologies.  No explanations.  What else could he say?  Last year, she wondered why she and her sister screamed their hearts out of their mouths, eyes, and ears crouched in a closet — as if screaming would make a difference — as if screams would stop unmeasured and random assaults on her Mother in a Commonwealth where the Rule of Thumb allowed husbands to beat their wives as long as the stick was no thicker than his thumb!

In that house, little girls might not stop screams with their own.  Who could scream the loudest?  Who could silence the noise?  Eventually, she realized the house was on Rockledge Street before pre-K, so they were one and three, or two and four years old, perhaps.  In a one mile radius, the same thing happened on Cedar and Alpine Streets. On Hartford Street, her Father cut her Mother up with a meat cleaver.

She can still summon the smell of Sugar Smacks decayed and stinking in bowls of spoiled milk abandoned on the kitchen table like so much blood and flesh on the floors, doors, the papered walls, and ceiling where on her Sister’s 9th birthday, “the accident” happened.

The blood of donors rushed from other jurisdictions, the white sheet that hid her mother’s head from her children, the paddy wagon where her mother was slung like a criminal, the crowd outside the window oohing and awing, jeering, and cheering her Father, who changed into a brown silk leisure suit, brown suede shoes, cocked a fedora on his head and walked tall, proud, and un-cuffed to the Police car.  The footnote in the Boston Globe, “Negro Man Attacks Wife with Meat Cleaver.”  The rise and fall of orphan’s tears, swollen eyes, praying hands and bargains with God in zombie disbelief.

But, I don’t feel sorry for that little girl.  Tall and proud.  She could have been a psycho killer — and I would be her muse, a tiny detail, a paper doll from an Alden’s catalog — paused in a puddle for the amusement of children.

IV

I am the one who cannot sleep.  Aside from occasional drifts from the pollen consumption of moths, to the dignity of a ski-lift nose…

 

Copyright 2004, 2013 E Maria Shelton Speller. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

The Foreword to Insomnia’s Istanbul (The Voice of an Unreliable Narrator, in Medias Res)

Now and then, I am restless.

     When I dropped them off at the restaurant, Simon asked me to join them for lunch. I parked the dolmus near the Sirkeci Railway. Potential fares watched me curiously. I felt compelled to announce it was time for lunch.

     ‘Ogle yemegi.’ I said to them. And not sesame-sprinkled bread either, I said to myself!

     I couldn’t walk fast enough to get away from the stink of smelted metal, and I find the putrid aroma of leather nauseating. What you smell on Galata Bridge depends on where you stand.  Looking over at the fishermen bobbing on the Horn, supporting the floating bridge, and still managing to grill a pan-full of mackerel, I almost walked over and bought a snack from my brethren.

     When I arrived, Simon and the woman were drinking Tuborg Bira. I don’t know what inspired her, but she was wearing the hood on her caftan. My friend, Ishmir, served us. He handed me the menu, but he was a very good Maître d. Ishmir stood directly across from her and suggested we start with hors d ‘oeuvres.

     They ordered Red Caviar in Mayonnaise. I ordered Stuffed Vine Leaves. Of course, when Ishmir suggested fish, she ordered Roe. I ordered Anchovy. But Simon ordered Roast Lamb with Onions, Yuk! Ishmir smiled a lot, but he was a cad: a supreme waiter and a notorious rogue.

     For vegetables, she ordered Spinach Tomato. Simon ordered Squash Potatoes, and I ordered Cabbage. They wanted Strawberries for fruit, and I ordered Figs. For dessert, she ordered Yogurt and Egg Pudding. Simon, a Lady’s Navel — a donut soaked in honey — and me, Rice Pudding.

     Then we had vodka. She tipped the glass as if it was empty, like her vanity. Simon told Ishmir to give it some color. So Ishmir put a peach on the rim. Suddenly, everything was right. She rested her elbow on the table, her chin in the palm of her hand. Cradling the vodka in her other palm, she started at the bottom of her wish list.

     “I want to go to Topkapi Palace.”

     Simon smiled the way a jinni would when his wish comes true. “What do you expect to find there?”

    “The shadow of God, I don’t know. I just want to go.”  She dropped her eyes, and then raised them again.

     Simon said, “You want to see the shadow of God? Perhaps we should go to the Sancta Sophia instead. But of course we can go to the Imperial Harem in Topkapi, and feel the shadows of black, emasculated men who controlled the Harem — eunuchs who resembled modern-day pimps without penises. Or the captured, bought, or sold foreign — and often Christian — concubines whose body hair was removed, and then pomaded with henna to prevent perspiration, after it was massaged and scrubbed by slave women too old to be favored, because the Sultan put his handkerchief on the concubine’s shoulder which she brought to his bed at midnight.”

     He leaned in to whisper, “A world of bored lesbians or platonic affairs with castrated page-boys. And afterwards, we could dive the Bosphorus,” he pointed toward Asia, “in search of those weighted sacks that Sultan Ibrahim had two hundred and eighty concubines sewn into. They’ll be upright and easy to find at the bottom of the channel.”

     “You know. . .” She lowered the hand that held her chin onto the table, and dug her nails into the palm of her hand. She sipped her vodka before she continued with, “A goalkeeper can catch ‘and’ throw the ball.”

     Simon didn’t return her volley. He reached into his pocket for cigarettes.

     “Meaning?” He offered her one, but her eyes faded and she shook her head, balancing the rim of the glass on her tongue. She sipped her vodka again. When she spoke, her blue eyes were flambé.

     “You can relate the melodrama of emasculated slave drivers, expose the gauze of white bondage in a pleasure dome. You can casually lean into homophobia, and then sink into regret. You can hear voices from the bottom of the channel, and you can suggest that we dive like dreadful Arabs. But you don’t mention that in this center of civilization, in this threshold of bliss, the arched eyebrows of ravaging old men who think it is right and necessary to punish one man for his impudence with the lives of a thousand boys and a thousand girls, a thousand mothers and a thousand fathers.”

     When she said “a thousand” her eyes closed, and her lips barely moved. I could hear her heart weep.  She leaned across the table into prose.

     “Muslims never mention a time when neglected and lascivious Turkish women stole around looking for new loves, shrouded in these habiliments now celebrated as some sort of Islamic affirmation.”

     She snatched the hood from her head. With a kiss curl on her cheek she continued, “Whores, whose husbands dreamed about the Imperial Harem, and could never recognize their disguised wives in that garden of paradise.”

     I pursed my cigarette between my lips, looked down the bridge toward the Galata Tower, and thought, “Please! Fuck her in the ass!”

     Simon’s bottom lip collapsed between his teeth, and when he released it to speak, a white impression remained. His head moved like the pugilist you shadow box, the prized peacock that halts to seduce you. “Is my nose bleeding, goalkeeper?”

     Her hands moved across the table towards him. She took one of his hands in hers tenderly. She spread his fingers, used her own to stroke the back of his hand with hers, turned his palm over and held it up as though light would pass through it like alabaster. She talked into it, as if her words would penetrate like sound.

     She said, “I saw a man in Seoul, on a gray day. My girlfriend and I had just hailed a taxi. He was with business associates, I guess, I don’t know. They carried armored briefcases, and he was wearing a plush black topcoat. A town car pulled in front of his party when his eyes, the color of the day, watched me, watching him. It was a magnetic moment, with magnetic potential, but I felt my body moving like Niagara toward the opened door of the taxi, and fall inside reluctantly. I left a phantom standing.”

     Simon’s bottom lip grew accustomed to his teeth again. He tilted his head far enough to see his reflection in her eyes, and then her hands disappeared between his. White horses straddled the hull, and Ishmir smiled at me, when a glass of tea shifted on his tray.

     I followed them through the Imperial Gate, even though I’d been there before. They were easy to trail. After we paid half price for nylons from a street vendor, Simon bought some French vanilla because she liked the decanter. It resembled a flask. But French vanilla didn’t mix with the miasma of death that surrounded the palace: the dark tiny cells, marbled rooms, and iron barred windows belonging to black eunuchs, and the eerie, evil battle-axes and scimitars of the conquered. Or, the surrealism of giant emeralds on the crown of the Topkapi Dagger, like a roman candle carried through the Gate of Felicity by Madonna.

   Despite all of that, and the barbaric flower patterns on the walls, and so much gold and diamonds they resembled copper and glass, I smelled French vanilla in this stained-glass heaven, and heard tocks in a room full of clocks like waterfalls. But what I wanted most of all, was to see Simon’s cock between her thighs.

     Beneath the delicate balconies were three hundred tiny rooms, and four hundred years of a ravaged Harem bridged by staircases, little courtyards, and pavilions. At the end of the cul-de-sac, I saw the lustrous eyes of the gazelle. While my thoughts shifted from ugly destruction to whet wildflowers in this horribly airy place, she looked satisfied. Then the lights went out!

     All you could hear was the hushed noise of silence. The familiar yelps of babies paused for the unfamiliar, but the proverbial blackout would arouse the dead before they wiped sleep from their eyes and magnified the click of her heels rising from clay. I saw her leap into his arms in lackluster headlights, and her bosom brushed his face infrared in taillights.

     Toward my voice of gentle direction, a friendly gauge to the door I opened, in a dark stagger they fell to obscurity like me. But I prefer to be forgotten and left to eavesdrop on transitory affairs.

     They were two people, interacting on each other. One to conquer like the Arab in the desert; the other to submit, like the Turkish nomad. Unfortunately, it was black in the back of the dolmus like the city, and I was only privy to the promise of pleasure, the sound of pain, the smell of conduction, and the rhythm of breathing.

     Unlike the neighbors next door, who desperately moan for us all, in the back of a dolmus sex is existentialism. It is earnest copulation, a period of decline in a carriage drawn by a wild-eyed spooked horse, and I hoped she felt the sharp turn at the corner of the Soup Kitchen of Lady Nilufer in her throat.

     We skipped the Sancta Sophia and the Blue Mosque. We circled Istanbul University. When I crossed the Galata Bridge and so many pilgrims dancing in the dark, the electric power line that lay victim to steel-belted radials in the middle of the street swung carefully without resistance, to expose the nightclub in the Galata Tower!

     I watched Simon and the woman from a bar stool dance the Fandango. A Jew with a batch of dark curly hair in rings around his head was dented at the crown by a yarmulke. He ordered double shots of Absolut Vodka with the regularity of a dehydrated Arab, and shook his head in time to Ruben Blades’ “El Padre Antonio.”

     Over the lullaby of the synthesizer, the Tower buzzed with a chorus of “Muchas gracias” from the last Spanish-speaking Jewish community. When that same synthesizer switched to hot salsa and the Jews were oddballs again, the woman’s body arched, the small of her back was in the palms of Simon’s hands. Her hair hung like strings of yellow ribbon suspended from a merry-go-round. Fixed at the center, she rode the stallion.

     Then I felt an annoying finger poke me on the shoulder blade. Of course, when I turned, the offender moved to the other side. I hate that!  It was Ishmir. Immediately, he excused himself and sardonically asked,Affedersiniz, Ingilizee bilen bir kimse merede?”

     I swiveled on the stool, and he turned to see what I saw. My fare, without trying, drawing attention like the dominant table in a crowded restaurant. Without turning away, Ishmir searched for his stool. With his hand on the seat, he slowly sat down.

     “Guzel . . .”  He called her beautiful before his mouth closed and his eyes narrowed.  I ordered two shots of viski. I was above lust in a crowd. Instead, I encouraged the love Simon consumed and Ishmir conserved — like any valid voyeur.

     In this motley assembly of American infidels, young Turks, Jews, and effendis, Ishmir clearly wanted her. He had no shame. I watched Ishmir once stand in the center of the howling, his erection discovered and affectionately held up for ridicule, Ishmir dropped his pants and revealed a deep-rooted trunk. With his back bowed by his fists, he struck a perfect anatomical pose, a picture of pride among men.

     Now, Ishmir watched her through narrowed, schizophrenic eyes, with his nose pressed against the windowpane, a man who has nothing, and no one adored her, like the man Luther Vandross and Martha Wash sang about, and my fare danced. Kirk Whalum’s sax charmed the snake. Ishmir wanted to be the one.

     Suddenly, he swerved around and watched them in the mirror behind the bar. Ishmir swigged the viski and then asked in a melodic yet unromantic tone, “Did he nail her?”

     “In the back of the dolmus.”

     “How?”

     “With an overhand knot around her neck-“

     “You always lie!” Ishmir cut me off.

     “I’m not interested in your vivid imagination! What did he do, how did he do it?”

     “I’m telling you what I know! If you don’t believe me, ask him!”

     “What of her wrists?”

     “A surgeon’s knot.”

     “Bullshit! That’s too much kinetic energy. She would have to be willing!”

     “She was.”

     “I don’t believe you! I don’t believe you…”  Ishmir shook his head and looked into his empty glass on the bar. I gestured to the bartender for refills. We were silent. Ishmir was disappointed. He swigged the viski again, and slammed the empty glass on the bar.

     “Why?” he asked.

     “Why what?”

     “Why was she willing?”

     I watched him. Ishmir was a desperate, impatient predator who didn’t know how to take down his prey.

     “Isn’t it obvious?”

     “Nothing’s obvious,” he snapped back. “Did she cry out loud?”

     “Yes . . . in ecstasy.”

     Ishmir swallowed loudly. He motioned for another refill, and looked in the mirror again. Simon and the French Vanilla were sitting at a table for two. Simon’s arm was draped across the back of her chair. She used his thigh to rest her arm, her hand between his knees, her head on his shoulder. He fed her the olive he fished from her drink, and sucked the salt from her lips. Ishmir swigged the viski again.

     He set his glass on the bar. With the same hand, he scratched the back of his neck, looked at me, and said, “She’s a whore.

…. They were loaded. Simon’s arm draped over her shoulders drew her close. They strolled to the bar. She was his center of gravity, until he slung his arms around mine and Ishmir’s necks. He left her like a shallow boat floating behind him. Simon proclaimed in English that he would buy more to drink if we answered a riddle.

     “What motivates a woman more than love or pride, country or power, glory or God?” I shifted my eyes from Simon’s to meet Ishmir’s. It was a trick question. I thought of the Sphinx for our reward. Then, in an aria of proper English, Ishmir and I replied, “Man, of course.”

     We laughed in perfect harmony. I looked over my shoulder. The truth was never more obvious than the pure expression of vulnerability and betrayal in her eyes; because, I thought, I had betrayed her confidence. I snooped. I peeked. Yes, I stuck my dick in her pie and felt a pang of regret.

     We laughed in perfect harmony. The truth was never more obvious than the pure expression of vulnerability and betrayal in her eyes; because, I thought, I had betrayed her confidence. I snooped. I peeked. Yes, I stuck my dick in her pie and felt a pang of regret.

     She resembled an Alsatian bitch with that uneven stride, and when we got to the dolmus, she literally crawled inside on all fours. Ishmir saw the fresh pears before Simon closed the door.

     I watched Simon curiously. Surely, he wasn’t finished with her yet! He wouldn’t send her home in a taxi . . . !

     “We forgot her caftan.” He lit a cigarette, cupping the flame from the breeze, as he walked away.

     “I’ll do it!” I thumbed myself repeatedly in the chest. I was afraid to be left alone with her.

     Ishmir nudged me and showed me his empty hands, and before I could fill them with my fists, he opened the door and filled them with her ass. Two fresh pears in his hands.  He bit one gently, his tongue between his teeth, his arms embraced her and his face disappeared.

     She thought he was Simon. She moaned when Ishmir’s hands slipped down and touched the core of her sex. I knew he’d gone too far when I was erect. I reached for the scruff of his neck and missed when he fell inside and covered her on the seat. He started . . . humping her, like lesbians hump virgin lesbians. It was fucking coitus!

     They were slender bodies of revolution. Then she screamed the way a little girl screams at the sight of an earthworm. When Ishmir backed off, a wet spot clung to his leg. She bolted out of the dolmus like a mandrill and leapt on him. She was in a violent rage! The skin of his face tore under her nails. She was like the sticky pulp of Oedipus hurled in Jocasta’s face.

     She slapped him hard, and harder again before Ishmir grabbed her by the neck with one hand, and parried with the other. That didn’t work! He started choking her and pushed her back inside the dolmus. They smelled like leather. I needed to throw up. Then I realized we were in the leather district of the bridge!

     Out of nowhere, while I stood there praying for fresh air and Simon’s return, she stabbed Ishmir repeatedly in the head with the heel of her shoe! He fell on top of her in a convulsive fit. Blood pulsed with every spasm, and zigzagged in a darker red all over my velvet roof and all over her yellow hair-dripping red. I threw up on the curb.

     Simon finally returned, and shoved Ishmir to the floor while she kept screaming, “He, he, he . . .”  and pointing at Ishmir’s bloody head. She was hysterical! Instead of shaking or slapping her, Simon hid her face in the crook of his neck.

     “Shh, shh!”  he said anxiously, until she simply trembled violently in his arms, her cries inverted.

     “What happened?” he whispered between clenched teeth. I hesitated, trying desperately to separate saliva from acid.

     “Talk to me, and speak English!”

     I pointed at Ishmir’s head, “He violated her . . .” I choked.

     “You watched him violate her?”

     My hands wouldn’t speak, “I . . .I . . .I . . .” Simon lunged and punched me fast and hard in the face. I stumbled, my arms slamming on top of the dolmus. I braced myself against a fall on the curb I hurled on. I thought he broke my bloody nose.

     “You stupid fuck!” He’s your friend, how could you let this happen?” He pointed his angry finger.

      I raised the palms of my hands to fend off his accusations, shaking my head in denial.

I pointed at Ishmir.  “He forgot that she’s an American!” Then I turned and pointed at her, “And she forgot that she’s in a foreign country!”

I tell you all this because I can’t tell anyone else. You see, I helped them excavate an Ottoman gravestone. We tied Ishmir supine around it in square nylon knots and threw him in the Golden Horn. What is life in Istanbul anyway? A world of felicity. Ishmir is in the other.

     I see the French Vanilla on the cover of magazines. She has an odd, fixed look in her eyes. The kind of look every man sees when a woman is between his legs on her knees; because, indeed, nothing propels a woman like man, not God, not country, not pride.

     “Please excuse me. Ogle yemegi.”

The mackerel has never tasted better. There must be something in the water.

 

© 2004, 2013, 2021 E Maria Shelton Speller All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thanks to David Halbertam’s, The Amateurs for the literary buoyancy of the narrative.

 

Istanbul’s Muse Board



Trench People (TP) Muse Board

When I was nine, and my sister seven, we shared a bedroom in the attic of a Victorian house, in New England.  We loved that pink triangular room, and the imaginary line that equally divided her side and mine, and it was not lost on us, that we were far removed from our extended paternal family, our parents, and the Irish triplets who shared a room of their own — downstairs. 

It was not just the physical detachment, but on the heels of “making believe,” we began to transport each other to fictional realities at bedtime that began with a question, followed by an answer and finally a bidding, “What are you doing?”  “I’m thinking.”  “What are you thinking about?” 

My stories would often begin with something truly extraordinary.  Diana Ross had ten kids in 1964!  She was twenty years old and married to Jorge — the Ebony Fashion Fair model who was the most beautiful man I had ever seen, and one of her children was my fourth grade classmate — a Puerto Rican named, Willie Sanchez.  He told us to call him Willie.  He was so cute!   

Theirs was the perfect family!  Jorge wore gray suede shoes and cardigans advertised in Jet and Ebony magazines, and the children wore clothing from the Alden and Spiegel Catalogs!   Images were accessible and appropriated. The stories epic and uninterrupted — unless clarification was necessary, like “What time do the kids have to go to bed?” 

I loved The Supremes!  In the Sixties, Diana Ross was a delicate and beautiful remix of freedom from ugly restraint.   I could scan a page for her name and find her like code!  Ditty Bop.  I could imitate her voice, her tone, inflection, her vibrato, choreography and her mannerisms! 

In the Summer of 1965, I sang A cappella, “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Stop in the Name of Love,” and “Come See About Me,” on a makeshift stage in our back yard, and became an accidental star with a teenage fan base… but, I just wanted to be left alone to adore her.

Those oral narratives in the dark — were contiguous, on a continuum, interconnected, in medias res. When I think about — Trench People, I wonder what are Angela, Lisa and Nimrod’s musings and who are their muses?  What would they like?  What makes them click?  TP’s Muse board is visible/linked below.  It’s a living, breathing, WIP.  It’s the pink room in the attic all over again!   I wonder how my sister is doing?  I wonder what she’s thinking…

http://pinterest.com/sheltonspeller/tps-muse-board/

 

 

Copyright © 2012, 2013 by Elaine Maria Shelton Speller

 

Trench People — Once Upon a Time There Were… Master Scene 2

The intent of this installment is to juxtapose art, content, audio, imagery, prose and poetry in an original screenplay, Trench People (TP).  Explode is a product of the antagonist’s art in TP.  TP is the framework for a virtual walk-through art installation like Christo and Jean Claude’s Wrapped Walk Ways or The Umbrellas — a mind-scape if you will.

Data for how many thoughts we have per minute and the speed of thought has not been measured and analyzed, so WYSIWYG — Wordpress is space for ideations.

TP follows the established rules of the industry, and in this space a JUMP CUT may signal a deviation, a temporary change of direction, an aside, a self indulgence, that hopefully holds your attention until the next FADE TO, CUT TO, DISSOLVE TO, or SMASH CUT TO — the antagonist’s art and the protagonist’s idealism.  When I started reading at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge Massachusetts, I read master scenes as prose and epic poetry.  TP was well received and even requested!

What concerns me is decorum.  I hope my audience is not averse to poetry in medias res…  Once upon a time there were…  Trench People!

 

 

TRENCH PEOPLE

(Original Screenplay — a Period piece)

by

E. MARIA SHELTON SPELLER

Copyright ©1996, 2015. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

WGA Registration 2005

 

 

I.  The Erastes and Erominos (White letters on black background)

 

CLOSE – ON ANGELA AND JUNE

They laugh out loud.  Angela throws her head back in FULL-THROATED LAUGHTER and June BANGS the table in approval with her fist.

JUNE

(out loud)

That was brilliant!

 

ROSALIND

That was careless!  Talk

about artistic irresponsibility!

 

ANGELA

Oh, come on, Ros!

 

ROSALIND

A warning would have been APPROPRIATE,

instead of SURPRISE — mayhem,

and blaming the white man, again.

 

ANGELA

It’s not HER fault Preachers,

Politicians, and the gatekeepers

of black consciousness jumped

to conclusions.

 

ROSALIND

What’s with this about-face?

 

ANGELA

I never said I thought it was

wrong, Ros… YOU did!

 

CLOSE – ON ROSALIND

who RAISES both brows at Angela and WAVES the subject away.

 

CLOSE – ON JUNE AND LISA

June leans closer to the BABY-DYKES, specifically Lisa.

 

JUNE

(shouts)

One Hundred Nooses was crazy

art!  Was it a political pun

against the pathos of black

art, or a brazen political

statement…?

 

CLOSE – ON LISA

who OVERHEARD Rosalind’s opinion and although she is talking to June, she LOOKS at Angela.  She LEANS across the table as far as she can and talks in a curt monotone like Lisa Bonet.

 

LISA

(shouting)

I will not offer an explanation,

which is to say, an apology

for my art.  Not to be understood

or over-stood… Everything IS Political.

Sex is politics.  The day we swam to

the egg or were propelled, by stronger

swimmers behind us, was politics!

Art without politics is passion

without pluck. Sterile like

Impressionism!  An allusion of

The Great Gatsby.  Who… who

dreams in pastels?

(beat)

Maybe one percent of

the population?

(quickly)

The only way to have dreamed

about, A Sunday Afternoon on

the Island of La Grande Jatte

was to have been there.  Those

were elitist dreams.  The

poor and vulnerable don’t dream

about wearing iced-cream pants!

They dream about, Starry Night,

The Scream.

(beat)

One Hundred Nooses is a

commentary on truth and

reconciliation.  It’s

an unnecessary postmortem

for a committee that has

not happened.

 

CLOSE – ON GODDESSES AND BABY-DYKES

The GODDESSES are SILENT.  Mardou breaks into a chilly smile.

 

CLOSE – ON MARDOU

looking at Lisa.

 

MARDOU

(loud)

It’s not who is going to let me,

it’s who is going to stop me.

I thought we plugged the

Fountainhead!

Let’s channel…

(whispers)

The Subterraneans, tonight.

 

BACK TO SCENE

Lisa’s eyes WIDEN and she feigns IRRITATION.  Soon everyone CHUCKLES.  People sitting around them look in their direction, as if acknowledging that theirs is the dominant table in the room.  Then Mardou watches Lisa REV up again.

 

CLOSE – ON LISA

LISA

It’s Bukowski’s Coffeehouse tonight.

Except, you’re beautiful,

(beat)

and you’re beautiful… and you’re

beautiful… and we know Bukowski

only trusted the company of

desperate people, with broken minds,

broken ways, and broken teeth.

 

CLOSE – ON GODDESSES AND BABY-DYKES

They AHA in unison.

 

MARDOU

(sarcastically)

Fuck levity, then!

 

LISA

Mardou, you want

something, superficial!

 

CLOSE – ON MARDOU

looks long at Lisa.

 

MARDOU

Why? Why are you so…

(frowning)

dissatisfied?

 

CLOSE – ON ANGELA

PULLS the edge of her glass to HER tongue.  In SLOW MOTION, it lands softly.

 

CLOSE – ON TONGUE

The tip of her tongue behind the rim of the glass.

 

CLOSE – ON GODDESSES AND BABY-DYKES

Angela is the only MOVEMENT at the table.

 

CLOSE – ON LISA

who LOOKS at Mardou.

 

LISA

What is satisfied?

Is that like wanting to

be the black girl of Jack

Kerouac’s dreams?  And

precisely when — when he

woke up and was repulsed by

her puffy sleeping lips the

morning after?

 

CLOSE – ON ROSALIND

feigning boredom.  She looks at the crazy crowd.  Then turns back to what she considered baby-talk.

 

CLOSE – ON TONI

looking at her friends.

 

TONI

(sighing)

Levity!

 

CLOSE – ON TONI

moving her hands as if describing a spiral staircase.

 

TONI

(continuing)

I don’t want to be the

only one laughing tonight.

 

CLOSE – ON LISA AND MARDOU

They BURST out laughing.

 

CLOSE – ON THE GODDESSES

They look at each other.

 

CLOSE – ON JIMMY – SAME TIME

an imposing man, like Ving Rhames’ Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, owns Pushkin’s Coffeehouse.  He spots Lisa, wearing a long black skirt over those long narrow flats with toes that turn up almost like elf shoes that she often wears, and a cropped black motorcycle jacket with white raised lines and letters of cycle iconography.  He looks SURPRISED because she seldom wears color.  Jimmy gets an ERECTION when he LOOKS at Lisa.  He reaches down to ADJUST the SWELLING under his fly. He waits a minute and then makes his way through the crazy crowd in Lisa’s direction.  He SIDLES beside Lisa — LEANING on the edge of the table with the palms of his hands.

JIMMY

El (Lisa)… How you

doin’, Baby?

 

LISA

(smiles)

What’s up, Jimmy?

 

JIMMY

I know you’re flowing

tonight, right?!

 

CLOSE – ON LISA

who looks up at Jimmy, and says nothing.

 

JIMMY

Don’t look at me like

that!  You read here,

at Pushkin’s first.

I know you’re gonna

read!

 

LISA

All the coffeehouse and cafe

owners say the same thing.

Everybody gave me a break,

but nobody wants to pay me…

You want me to read for free!

Then you get an attitude when

I won’t.  Pay me!  Show your

appreciation.  I’m a working

artist.  A proletariat!

 

JIMMY

OK, OK.  How much you

chagrin’?

 

LISA

(frustrated)

Jimmy, you know how much

I charge… I’m sick of

having to give the same

speech every time I want

a cup of coffee.

 

JIMMY

In Fifteen?

 

LISA

Let’s do it now!

 

CLOSE – ON LISA (MOVING)

rising from the table focused on space.  Her entourage ceases to exist. SLOWLY PAN the CRAZY CROWD.

 

JIMMY (O.S.)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Pushkin

is proud to present, our very

own, El Cherry… Snap!

 

LISA’S P.O.V. – CROWD

Lisa and her P.O.V. is filmed in black and white.  People step aside at the last minute, greeting her on her way through, while snapping their fingers.

LONG – ON LISA

On stage, you cannot HEAR her FOOTSTEPS.  The toes of her shoes SWISH the air.  At the microphone she STANDS straight almost in a NAPOLEONIC pose.  The room is QUIET.  She launches into “One Single Act of Love.”

 

LISA

(curt, ferocious monotone)

I sold a rock opus to the best

Black rock band on the planet.

A band that lost its capacity

to dream.  Formulaic guarantees

skewed their imagination for plati-

num discs.  The male coward covered

their lifework, literally.

My story reminded them of what

‘rushing’ felt like, how complete,

how deep blushing could be obvious.

And they bought it, and produced it.

And it was good — it was better

than good.  It was thought provoking

and it was an African-American affir-

mation of our realities and our

fantasies no matter how unrealistic.

Suddenly, they were very significant

and the world truly believed that

rock music is black music and black

music is everything.  Power is

aesthetic.  Aesthetics is politics

and being black is philosophical

and our philosophy is phenomenology

and being black, is being real…

 

The uninitiated FIDGET, while obvious followers recite some of the passages like Allen Ginsberg’s audience did when he recited, Howl in the Sixties. Lisa does not raise her voice.

RESUME – ON LISA

shoving her hands deep in shallow pockets.

LISA

(less ferocity)

No Hip Hop could say as much as

this rock opus did, ever–no matter

how many stories they sampled.

So, this black rock band were

crowned kings and were exulted,

and revered, incandescent icons,

the envy of friends, the

consumption of man, the image

of immortality like the stained-

glass heaven you summon before

you close…  And they loved me…

I was the wick in their candle-

stick and without me there was

no burning flame.  I was the

source of their energy.  I was

the unstained virgin encamped…

 

CLOSE – ON LISA

leaning closer to the microphone.

 

LISA

(continuing)

When we huddled over a page it was

a psychological bristling, a patho-

logical fear, a sexual entreaty.

I wanted them, and they wanted

me.  So when opportunity knocked,

I told them so.  Sooner than anyone

imagined, there was nothing more

important, than our collaboration.

The media was our medium. They

stopped referring to me as a writer,

and started calling me a Love Supreme.

Annie Leibovitz wanted to take our

pictures–together. But, there was

something unnatural about the photo

session.  Instinct was lacking.

There was a tame and conspicuous

outsider on camp.  After taking

off too many shades, we asked

Annie to come back tomorrow and

blamed our ubiquitous danger on

some tribal angst about picture

taking and soul stealing…

When she was gone, I suggested

that they fuck me…

 

CLOSE – ON ANGELA’S EYES

Her eyelashes flutter.

 

MATCHCUT TO:

Angela’s lips, opening slowly.

 

RESUME – ON LISA

who at this moment, personifies the rebirth of COOL.

 

LISA

(continuing)

Not unlike the man in the movie

and the dancing whore…  My

honest response to the love

between us left them exposed.

So exposed, their breath rushed

past their lips in staccato

proportions.  Although they all

did, the one that really cared

about me began to pace the room.

His eyes watched how his feet

travailed.  Another, would have taken me

right then and there had we been

alone–he would have used his

shoestrings and tied my thumbs

behind me if that were all he

had.  But he was not the only

one I wanted, so he waited

anxiously.  Another, had the

strange and curious stare of an

intellectual trying to figure me

out.  And the other, simply smiled

at me from some private place, now

public, and I knew he would hurt me…

deliberately. The intellectual asked

me if I really thought it would make

a difference, and I couldn’t help

watching him as if he were some…

clear liquid.  How could it not

make a difference?  The pacer turned

and admitted he cared and said he

could not and would not participate;

furthermore, he did not think it

should happen.  The anxious one

stood and started barking at him.

If I moved in any direction, it

would be provocation for premature

ejaculation and the anxious one,

while still barking would be the

first to straddle me…

 

LISA P.O.V. – CRAZY CROWD

A man in the audience barks.  Another howls.  Women smile to themselves.

 

CLOSE – ON GODDESSES AND BABY DYKES

SMILING.  ENAMORED, Angela FALLS in love.

 

RESUME – ON LISA

She raises her voice.

 

LISA

(continuing)

If I raised my hand or my voice,

they would think I might change

my mind.  Trapped, I sat there

watching this frenzy I’d started.

The air grew hot but I did manage

to express, “All or no one.”  They

turned to look at the one who cared.

He looked at me, and I decided

that he would be the one that

would hurt me… deliberately.

And because he cared, because

he was the one holding back,

he would have to be the first.

He would have to get his reser-

vations out of the way so that

they could proceed.   “It’s on you

man.”  Said the intellectual and

then I decided the intellectual

would be the last one.  Was I

afraid? I was practically trem-

bling on that single futon.  My

laptop at the head of the bed

would have to be moved–gingerly.

The point was, I slept with my

work, I ate with my work and now

I’d fuck my work–but we would

never tell Annie the latter.

“What the fuck is the matter with

you?”  The one who cared blasted

at me.  Oh, I thought, he would

fuck me angrily–he would punish

me this way…

 

CLOSE – ON ANGELA

closing her eyes.

DISSOLVE TO:

CLOSE – ON LISA

whose nostrils FLARE slightly.

 

LISA

(continuing)

All I had to say was something

stupid like, ‘What the fuck is

the matter with you?’  Then,

giving him an excuse to fuck

me to death like June Jordan’s

“…unidentified victim of her

own neglect…” gang-raped on

a Brooklyn rooftop and thrown

to her death, screaming  but

‘inaudible’.”

 

LONG – ON LISA

RAISING her voice for what is clearly her favorite passage.

 

LISA

(continuing)

Conscious decisions are all that

I can respect.  Don’t cling to

insanity, or criminal passion,

or peer pressure, or social

expectations.  Don’t talk to me

about losing control–momentarily.

Or, the poverty and violence of

pain heaped upon more pain

because you’re black.   This is not

a gang-rape.  This is not dionysia

all over again, where women

and children are sacrificed, and

blood is beer.  If I change my

language, the outcome will still

be the same.  And, if I am woman

enough to resist surrender, are

you man enough to know the

difference, between love

and violence–without conditions…

 

INT. BAR – JIMMY – SAME TIME

He dispatches a NEAT Remy Martin to her table.

 

LISA (O.S.)  (continuing)

“You want her don’t you?”  Somebody

said.   Then he asked me a private

question, not at all furtively,

“Why?”  I dropped my eyes and then

I looked askance at the one who

cared and said,  “My fascination

with poetic themes is like–a

serenade already in progress…

isn’t this poetry, in effect?”

 

LONG – ON LISA

PAN the Crazy Crowd — spellbound.

 

LISA

(continuing)

He kneeled at the foot of the bed

and that was their cue, but I was

not ready and he knew it–but what

the hell!  The love between us

was trapped between power and lust.

His hand covered my neck like a

bridge over a dam I could not escape.

The intellectual secured my wrists

exactly the way I described in my

dreams.  I whispered to the one

who cared… that while I waxed

my dream before it faded–

I knew he would halt before he

turned the page.  Like the man

in my dreams, he was too big for

me, but he did not hurt me delib-

erately.  Under violent power

strokes, I broke under him in a

cadence I could not count in a race

out of water.  A rhapsody played in

fusion.  The anxious one ejaculated

too soon, and the one that smiled

from some private place took me

to the basement in some tenement

and hurt me deliberately, pushing

in unyielding directions.  So, I

screamed finally and the one who

cared pulled him off me and he

came all over my thighs.  That is

what he wanted, to be restrained

by somebody, anybody because he

was an animal after-all.  The

intellectual rocked me gently

to peace, licked the tears from

my ears and my face.  When it

was over, the one who cared untied

my arms that felt like ribbons

draped over my shoulders.  He was

the only heat for my cold tremble,

my soul stirring complete.  In one

single act of love we were bound

together and in unison they

screamed to the stained virgin…

you’re mine!   It was…SURREAL.

 

LISA’S P.O.V. – AUDIENCE

The crazy CROWD and her entourage give her a MUCH LOVE.

 

WIDE – ON LISA (MOVING)

PIVOTS like a feline to leave the stage.  APPLAUSE lasts until she is well seated.  She reaches for the drink Jimmy sent to the table.  Mardou and Toni HUDDLE with LISA.