Egad, the Casbah in Santa Barbara
Part of the fun is the embrace of perfume
Cafe Angelica Emerald Crème
A sabbatical delay waiting to be served
A ceremonial promenade hunched over gazettes
Unwelcome raindrops splatter the canvassed toes of my shoes
Thus the au courant cartoons on my stringy denim knees
Inside at last, I’m saved and Mocha Berry satisfied
Like the face of the fretless little girl
Blowing candy off the floor in her mouth
Clicking up and down in shoes too big for her feet
Stealing glances at an intellectual jerk
Chocolate Cherry satisfied between deep banter
With a friend floating in Vanilla Colada
Part of the fun is real references to books
And book references to real well read attitudes
What’s the shiniest patented leather flats
On the girl with the silkiest blonde hair
Doing with the darkest man
In Dreadlocks and Birkenstocks?
No talk between them
Then they’re sharing the table
Those lined outside will share tables too
The Raspberry Almond can sit with me
Keeping the beat with an aggravated drum lead
His body twitched with jazzy guitar licks
He smiled between the plugs in his ears
And faces fade into a mirror in the back
Part of the fun is waking up here
In an essay on spice and circumstance
A sabbatical renewal once more
On a regional affirmation of decadence
This day of rest I worship Santa Barbara
And the celestial trip I straddle
To be able to dry my canvassed toes
With the heat of Golden Pecan
And the fervent chill of observation
In my sanctioned Casbah
In my sabbatical home
I hold my head up
My cup runneth over
Reading books and people vicariously
Egad, I am dry and satisfied
© 2002, 2020 E Maria Shelton Speller. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Author’s Note: The following excerpt is from the book titled, Yellow Tape [A Memoir] coming in the summer of 2021.
I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe in synchronicity.
We were meant to be – because we happened.
We took shelter in dark closets and screamed like tiny Sirens until our eyes were bloodshot and bulging, our ears ringing, our faces slick in tears and mucus, and our legs were covered in urine. Chaperones in an obliged competition for who could scream the loudest and longest interval — to stop MaMommy and MaDaddy from fighting again. We were toddlers.
When there was silence – except for the tinnitus in our ears, our eyes blinked for sound and with unclenched fists we dried our faces with the palms of our hands and the cuffs of our pajamas. Sometimes we looked to each other for muted answers – our eyes suspended like question marks.
I was two years older than my sister, and much taller. I reached for doorknobs above our heads — I slowly turned. We peeked through the crack of light in the door. If the crack was too narrow and my sister couldn’t see behind me, she would get down on her knees and look under the door for shadows. We had this routine, you see. If we heard our Mother moan, I would shut the door again — quietly. We squatted on the floor close to each other for comfort and embraced our knees like pillows against our chests and waited interminably. Twin hearts beating in sync.
I can’t remember when, or how, or who rescued us from the closets… we may have rescued ourselves, quickly scurrying on bare feet to the bedroom we shared. Success was silence, and when there was silence, we were safe. We never looked for our Mother. She didn’t want to be found.
The next morning, my cheerful Mother would fix our favorite breakfast. Pancakes and bacon and sometimes scrambled eggs. We loved sugar, so we smothered our breakfast in Aunt Jemima syrup. With care we looked for signs of injury to no avail. What were we crying about, after all? A tacit agreement that we were silly little girls worrying over nothing.
But we had so many questions. What happened? Why aren’t you sad? What can we do for you? Was it our fault? Did we do something wrong? Why was MaDaddy so mad? Did he hurt you? Do you love him? We always settled for, may we have more syrup, please?
I huddled over my breakfast once to hide the stain of a teardrop in my syrup. My Mother said, “Don’t cry.” as if crying was unnecessary, inappropriate, and a violation of her privacy. Strong girls don’t cry. So we colluded with our Mother and pretended the incidents never happened, and drowned our pancakes in syrup, swallowing quietly, staring straight ahead, wearing our happy faces, our lashes blinking in accord and swung our legs under the table. It was a quiet ritual and the feelings were always the same. My sister and I learned early to swallow our feelings like pancakes, smothered in syrup.
I know pain in a vacuum and how hollowness and emptiness can coexist, like a moon that blocks the sun. This morning was metallic like the quicksilver mercury a classmate shared on the playground in a secret show and tell. It was one uncontrollable morning that moved without impediment.
It was my sister’s 10th birthday. My mother was standing at the stove scrambling eggs in her night gown. Out all night, my Father burst into the kitchen. With five children at the breakfast table, he grabbed my Mother by the neck and at the same time pulled open the kitchen drawer grabbing the big knife without looking… as if it were placed there specifically for this one morning.
I bolted from the kitchen on the heels of my Father dragging my Mother out of the kitchen… but somehow, she broke free… running and begging, Honey please, please, I love you… she ran, but not far before he slashed her right buttock with the knife, and I saw white meat… White meat! I ran for help!
I left my Mother. I left my siblings trapped in high chairs, and screaming over bowls of Sugar Smacks… I felt my sister on my heels… we ran down the winding stairs, screaming… determined… pleading, the horror… the mortification! What is going on? What is happening? Call the police! Call the police! But my Aunt, my Father’s sister, called a sibling, a brother for guidance… Call the police! I screamed. I couldn’t stop him. What was I to do? My Mother never wanted to be found…
“Call the police!” I demanded over and over again. She didn’t. Instead she locked herself and her daughters in the bathroom… and my sister followed her there. They barricaded themselves… and I faced him squarely… Pugilists without gloves, without tape, without corners… “I hate you! I hate you! You killed my Mother! You killed my Mother! I hate you.” I screamed repeatedly.
He hit me. A Pugilist hit me in the head. My knees buckled. I didn’t fall. He hit me again. My knees buckled, but I didn’t fall. I would not fall. He reared back and hit me with a roundhouse punch a third time. Boom like Forman punched Frazier. My feet left the floor. I sailed across the room and landed behind a Settee… the back of the chair toppled over with me — and behind the chair I peed on the floor and it ran like mercury. I sat in it and looked up at my Father doe-eyed and mortified. With the back of the chair in my lap I thrashed like a deer hit by a car on the side of a road looking for grace. I don’t know why he came downstairs or who he was looking for. He found me. At 6’ 3’’ he loomed in the doorway like a dark ghost fading up the stairs with the footfalls of an athlete and the precision of his occupation: meat cutter.
I mustered the courage to follow him… Determined I climbed gingerly up the stairs that reminded me of every corner and crack in the doors of those closets my sister and I hid in when we were toddlers, but this time I was alone.
At the top of the stairs, I turned the corner, and my Father was in the mirror in the bathroom cocking a brown suede fedora on his head. He was wearing a brown silk walking suit and brown suede shoes. I didn’t know where my Mother was. I was awestruck. He was beautiful. Fate would have my Mother behind me watching me watching him. I wondered how he could be so cruel, so vain, so cold, so calm, so cool. He didn’t see me, or perhaps he did. I didn’t look for my Mother. She didn’t want to be found.
Quietly, I retreated back downstairs and waited for the Police. I left my Mother. I left my siblings. My sister and my Aunt were still locked in the bathroom, and my uncle had not arrived even though my Aunt called him for advice. Instead, he called the Police. The Police finally arrived, a paddy wagon behind them. A paddy wagon for my Mother! Not an ambulance.
At 12 years old I was indignant. I knew my Mother was not to be treated like a criminal and a paddy wagon was not appropriate for her! My Father should be in the paddy wagon! She was the victim, she needs a Doctor, she needs help, sympathy and proper care. How would they even secure the stretcher in the paddy wagon? They were in the house and up the stairs before I could finish my thoughts. My Mother was carried back down the stairs, and because she always wanted to protect her children, she asked the Police to cover her bloody head so her children could not see what would taint her maternal code of propriety, only her children understood.
My Father was escorted down the stairs like a hero… a god. He was a star. No handcuffs… It was as if the Boston Police knew and respected him, and were impressed with his walking suit, his fedora, and those brown suede shoes. The crowd cheered him! By this time, my Aunt and sister stood behind me. We peered through the curtains at the crowd that gathered to witness the death of my Mother and someone, a young woman pointed at me in the window and shouted, “Look! She looks like a monster!’ Quickly, we closed the curtains and retreated to our separate corners. My aunt gathered the bearing she hid in the bathroom, now on full display and my sister and I shared a gaze and we knew we would never share a closet again.
I had a concussion. No Doctor examined me. It wasn’t confirmed by the authorities. I bargained with God between crying jags until I fell asleep over and over again. My face, my eyes, and lips were swollen and lacerated. My family walked around me as if they would not see me — except to offer soup, and then I would remember why I grieved, why I lay in the same spot on the same couch and again I would cry myself to sleep. They left me there until my eyes were no longer swollen, no longer bloodshot, and my lips were no longer bruised. Traumatized. My eyes didn’t blink, and they left me on my own. That was perhaps the most generous thing they could do, sans calling the authorities to rescue the catatonic child, and putting the son and brother at risk. He was jailed without bond. I saw a snippet on page 10, or perhaps it was page 2, in a little box at the bottom of the page hidden in plain sight, “Colored Man Attacks Wife with Meat Cleaver.”
We gathered ourselves by degrees. I heard snippets of conversation. My Mother was alive… She lost so much blood she needed transfusions and they reached out to other jurisdictions as far as Florida. We had to go to the welfare office for assistance and were instructed by my Grandmother and Aunt to dress down to look poor and pathetic… We dressed in a manner that my Mother would never abide for her children. I overheard a constant refrain. My Mother “… must have done or said something.”
They said a man called my Mother on the only phone in our Victorian house – my Grandmother’s phone on the first floor. Another of my Father’s brothers, told my Father a man called my Mother and chided him to do something!
I was alone in an abyss of violence justified by hostility, doubt, and betrayal. I was convinced they didn’t like my Mother, or me for that matter. My breath was alien, angry, staccato. My Father slashed my Mother’s right buttock and left random slashes on her back. He broke her arm, he cut her skull… and finally, and this was a first — he scarred her face. A crescent moon on her cheek – the symbol for a new beginning.
Because of the institutionalization and practice of The Rule of Thumb, women in Massachusetts endured domestic violence. It was incumbent on women to press charges. The D.A. begged my Mother to file criminal charges against my Father. My Grandmother begged her not to file charges against her son. My Father begged her not to file and guaranteed he would never harm her again. My Mother did not file charges.
The yellow tape was removed from the door. We cleaned the blood and flesh off the floor and the walls, and discarded bowls of cereal abandoned and calcified in sour milk like the bark of a tree my Father fashioned into a lamp, and filled the space with children tethered and tripping over yellow tape that tangles as they grow taller.
My Mother came home wearing a shield of armor – a cast. White, clean, no graffiti. She was proud of that cast – a symbol of survival – of an accident. We were so happy! Our Mother was alive, and even more beautiful than before! I remember my Mother lying in the center of her bed surrounded by her children. One of my siblings ran his hands through her hair, and she scolded him, “Don’t do that.” The polar opposite of “Girls don’t cry.” Don’t make a girl cry. Don’t avail yourself to her body. Don’t break her skin.
My Father stopped by. They had an announcement. He was coming home. My sister and I were bewildered, and disappointed but always respectful; however, upon that announcement, I slowly rose from the floor and walked away without explanation or hesitation.
This time my sister followed me up the stairs to our bedroom in the attic. Not long after walking away from them my Mother did something she rarely did – she came upstairs to our bedroom. She sat on the edge of my bed and gingerly told me my Father said, he hit me because I was hysterical.
I am not a monster! I am not a monster… It’s more complicated than that.
Copyright © 2020 E Maria Shelton Speller
Edited by Brahidaliz Martinez
We loved Anthony…
Overture: Woodstock is an ensemble. There are two voices and the beat in this WIP… the Narrator’s voice, Hitchcock’s, and “That Yoni” by JuseBeats!
In a walk through Whole Foods like Hitchcock
In his magnum opus
about a world… full of extras
Beddo, Caprino, Dolce Sardo
Zufi, the Saperavi
Disappointed… in us!
[There’s no other way to say it — I can’t dress it up]
Caught between a slumbering scream and Vertigo
Cruising isles and isles of sweet and sour
People who think they are special
People who know they are not
People who wish they were
Beddo, Caprino, Dolce Sardo
Zufi, the Saperavi
Guess what we did?
A party of twenty
Three couples played before
winking and willing
shills playing in the round
Lovely trips on the Hill
in augmented VR
Baby boomers had their turn Woodstock!
Barefoot bell bottomed hippies
Denim sweeping the ground
Revolutionary hair — fists in the air
Dragging us back in the mud
Move on Woodstock!
Take your shades, caps, change and loose articles
Bombs in black holes!
[Where did you go?]
We should be sunning in the Bahamas
chilling on hemp swings and
chairs swiveling in immersive environments
Higher than kite fights
A soaring for points experience
Get off the ride Woodstock!
You had your turn — at freedom
Exit signs are easy to find — look
The dragon is in the window
Freedom is accessible
Wonder is a trip
with walk through assistants
Dreams of power and prizes
Fall out and Jack into
a walk through Whole Foods like Hitchcock
in his magnum opus
about a world… full of extra
architectonic loops and links, alliteration and reverie, force, ballast, fancy partitions, linear renderings, systems of reckoning — and more — of her… virtually surreal
Beddo, Caprino, Dolce Sardo
Zufi, the Saperavi
We don’t want to feel we’re high…
We just want to think we’re high
We don’t want to feel we’re high…
We just want to think we’re high
Copyright © 2016 E Maria Shelton Speller. All rights reserved.
*I’ve toyed with a conundrum, for too long. [Reserved][Reserved] functions like a digital art installation in Woodstock! (WIP (x Bars)). I could render [Reserved][Reserved] a mechanism – to catch That Yoni’s beat in perpetuity. I could close the brackets with bars that fills your loins with blood. I could leave redundant emptiness here — like tautology or romanticized art, or structural language — in this bifurcated space, like stars.
I could invite Poets to fill the empty bars for [Reserved][Reserved]
Girl Band of STEMs, is a lark, a careful ruse about a writer, who comments on her own stories. It is metafiction in a digital world. This, I would argue. The author writes a story about herself, writing a story about her Band, and the Band knows they’re in the story, about a story that interacts with you. She writes a story, where her audience is her muse – may demand she change the ending, in an installation we build in space — for dreams, on a loop…
The Band asked me to write tags for my work. Tags! But, opportunity or obstacle… the Muse is insatiable — until it works. Poets know that tick, when everything becomes art – in a second glance. Woodstock, was absolute freestyle in a digital world. I worked on it for weeks… and wrote it Live one Saturday afternoon – five hundred revisions at least. Poets know that tick. I changed commas to periods and back again – metaphors to imagery, slowed it down, sped it up. Reminisced. If you were there on that Saturday afternoon, Woodstock was a writer’s tick at work. I wrote the hook on the 7th Street Bridge in DC. Installed [Reserved][Reserved] when I lost my way. Found the beat, marked the spot, and then it looked like a digital art installation, in spite of the implications — for structural functionalism in space. But, my muse is pissed…
Tag: Woodstock. A Band for Immersive Content. A Woodstock Experience.
Tag: The Foreword to Insomnia’s Istanbul — The Voice of an Unreliable Narrator in Medias Res: 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.
Tag: Love Divine: Tadao bathes Tess in a black granite tub. Then he slips behind her like an ice cream scoop. Blood spills like a waterfall in a Japanese dream over the side of the tub. Red water on the porcelain floor looks like a strawberry swirl.
Tag: Metafiction — [The Dollhouse] with the Red Corvette: [Vous êtes contrarié parce que je suis sorti du lit. Ce n’était pas ce que tu imaginais – dans le film dans ta tête. Je ne peux pas aller aux toilettes, quitter la pièce ou fumer une cigarette. smh]
Tag: Aristotle Michelangelo and Louis Picasso’s Parallel Discussions: Come on baby. All you have to do is dream — from the end of a pen.
Tag: Luda’s Second Soliloquy — Miles Language II. [Metaphor].
Tag: [For The Purple One]
Tag: [The Life of Pie] He thought/Big Blue was a deeper trip/Absurd space looked/Absurd from here/He looked around the virtual/And mad shouted/Who read the pieces first?/Anyone?/How did it ring?/How did it feel?/How did it resonate?/She said, I started at the slices/Chaos, straight out the gate/When Big Blue was just/The sky.
Tag: Picasso The Bohemian (Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon) “…She told halcyon tales of life — uninterrupted by death and chthonian sex — like the brazen whore in the fore — riding the fugitive cube — with the wasp waist and black aft — Eucharistic grapes, and the curl of the rind — pointing to glorious thighs — and with eyes in the back of her head — she watched the spectator off center… watching — Picasso The Bohemian — who lived in Barcelona — standing behind the curtain — wearing a mask…”
Tag: Explode [Am I awake, or are you a dream?]
Tag: The Gaze (WIP) I know I needed to stay in and listen to music like Paz did and avoid humans — he said, “To read a poem is to hear it with our eyes; to hear it is to see it with our ears.” Instead, I left my home and this is what happened… Apparently, a new and poorly trained employee provided incorrect information over the phone. Consequently, I arrived unprepared, and had to return to my vehicle. Because, I had to return to my vehicle (in the rain) parked around the corner — I ultimately, received a ticket for expired meter! A ticket. What should have been a $26 transaction is now $76 in this crowded, greedy — unimaginative city!
Tag: Directing the Master Scene in the Mirror. It’s impossible to write poetry, without libido. Without libido, there’s no passion and without passion, there’s no pluck.
Looked like [Mardou Fox]
through Kerouac’s eyes_
Remember… those puffy lips?
Yakuza found her in Tokyo
and lost her — in the Philippines….
[Wait… There’s a surprise at the end]_
They stole Alexa
She had all the poetry
Yakuza chased her through Tokyo
to the Phillipines
Alexa, was everything to him
Cream like the color of his skin
Ahh, the poetry
He lost everything
Fell in love with a haunting hunt
Baby, come back to me
Copyright © 2017, 2018 E Maria Shelton Speller All rights reserved.
June 2, 2017
Explode — The Writers Environment Experiential Network Project — has a girl band of STEMs! Stand by for updates.
May 19, 2017
You never appreciate home
As much as when you come home
Where God lives… with you
May 11, 2017
Name baby something
Something easy to retrieve
Then share Me with friends
About a Prisoner of Love (Props to Christopher Logue’s War Music)
Look at the smile on my face. I knew you were selfish. Abandoned, you left me on the side of the road. Gone. Put yourself in my place. Left, on the side of the road. Naked. I knew you would own me — broken and falling to pieces — in halcyon swirls, dark storms, and faints. I would let you stand me on my head, spin me like a top, a dreidel — and catch me, before I fell. Then, you said you would sleep with her because, “Why not? It’s not a competition — though you might win. Its not about… us.” That’s balls. CUT!
April 9, 2017
Notes on Manhattan: This is not a Warhol ~ Basquiat Installation. I curated the Opening and a still – not the fucking gorgeous film. While it is lovely — I did not curate Manhattan. Not my composition — not my triptych. This space is for art — for the sake of art — unaltered. It’s Explode: The Writer’s Environment!
To curate content in this space, please contact me.
April 25, 2017
Thanks Halo Music!
Last night, a friend and I
took the Kimye Tour
I was a voyeur
A friend took him there and there and there
Unbeknown to him
I asked him if he knew where Kimye went
We roared and stumbled on together
Please please paint a picture…
Funny, you asked!
Copyright 2017 by E Maria Shelton Speller. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Parallel Discussions (In Medias Res) Overtaken by Events
Behind Pushkin’s Coffeehouse, Aristotle Michelangelo and Louis Picasso sat on the remnants of a barge, trading barbs in Ibiza… swinging high top leather sock hip hop sneakers, and creeper boots in blue green virtual water, with Rick Owens’ reflection in the pool, burning fat ones – away from the beautiful ones — in a Period Piece. The Darlings of today’s literati — visionaries during the Harlem Renaissance, play themselves in a satirical throwback in VR.
Louis Picasso: “In RL, it’s 6 P.M. You just got home from work or you work from home in your virtual office. You decide to spend the evening in space! You scan Balmain for your Avatar – dope fashion — with as much audacity as Hype Williams’ black lacquered Keisha in Belly — wearing Versace!
You decide to download your brand new Porsche designed by Porsche and Atari for Microsoft, on the Pacific Coast Highway — Malibu on the left, Pepperdine University on the right, you’re on your way to virtual LA in the fast lane — your thighs are burning. Other avatars and their cars share the PCH too — driving Vipers, Corvettes, the white BMW X6 and you are speeding at 100 MIPS, streaming Coltrane.
Aristotle Michelangelo interjects: “Then you decide to go to BET’s virtual Nuyorican Café in Gotham City for the Open Mike – Saul Williams and Jessica Care Moore are featured (as themselves) tonight. You hand the keys to the valet — pay at the door with your password, sit front row center no matter what time you arrive, sign up to read your poem — because you can start over from the beginning or resume. Gender! Lame. Race is unimaginative in Space. Ethnicity is a brand — at best. The Open Mike is over at 10 P.M. but there is still time to go to Bar Pitti. You walk in and Claude McKay is at the bar in a heated debate with Ralph Ellison about literary ownership — by Netflix.
McKay shouts and then nearly whispers to Ellison, ‘It takes more than creative androgyny to “embody” the opposite sex. The storytelling responsibility of all writers, whether female or male is to fill the void. When a woman creates a man, she must imagine the sensation of “owning” a penis. When a man creates a woman, he must imagine the sensation of “owning” a vagina. It is a void, not a vacuum. A vacuum would imply the all-consuming black hole — the feminization of sex. It is not trained comprehension or chromosomes — it takes pure imagination to get the story straight…’
Louis Picasso: “Then, at Midnight, you blow kisses and wuggles to your friends, and log off. You stand and stretch your back, and your bladder is bursting because you forgot about your biological realities. The television is off; it has been off for weeks. Why watch television when you can be your own audience? Randall Walser said it best, “The filmmaker says, ‘Look, I’ll show you.’ The space maker says, ‘Here, I’ll help you discover.’ We will be our own creators functioning like actors in high culture — tools of the taste public! We will create our own universes — our own planets. We can superimpose our images circa 6 BC – AD 30, and follow Jesus to the Promised Land, witness the crucifixion – and how we feel and what we think is utterly private and without commercials! Because, global messages with common appeal will forever change with today’s technology, the challenge is to make communication visual, images symbolic, and still sell product… I want to propose arcane ideas…”
Aristotle Michelangelo interjects: “I want to develop, manage, and direct vision. My goal is to be where imagination and business are indistinguishable, because imagination without business, and business without imagination is as incongruous as capitalism without consumers… I found a dope quote dog!”
“When, she was still in her teens, well before she met Caesar, Cleopatra already had slept with Antony… though Caesar was fifty-three and she but twenty-three or so she proved ready enough to bed her third Roman. It is said that Cleopatra was a woman of lively turn and enticing talents. She also had a keen sense of the political. That this Roman [Caesar] conqueror had the power to secure the Egyptian throne for her must have added to the attraction she felt for him…Caesar established her in a sumptuous villa across the Tiber, from which she held court, while political leaders, financiers, and men of letters, including the renowned Cicero, danced in attendance.” Michael Parenti
Louis Picasso: I’m reading the same book, and I have a better one!
“In a prologue to Caesar and Cleopatra [George Bernard Shaw] that is almost never performed, the god Ra tells the audience how Rome discovered that ‘the road to riches and greatness is through robbery of the poor and slaughter of the weak.’ In conformity with that dictum, the Romans ‘robbed their own poor until they became great masters of that art, and knew by what laws it could be made to appear seemly and honest.’ And after squeezing their own people dry, they stripped the poor throughout the many other lands they conquered.” Michael Parenti
Aristotle Michelangelo: Shrugged his shoulders unconsciously, “Chez Bricktop in Paris?”
Louis Picasso: Not now. I am having a violent reaction to prescription drugs! My body is like, ‘Don’t put that shit down here again!’ They gave me all this medication for Acute Caesarion whatever — and I took it! Of course, you don’t exhaust the shit. You’re not an idiot. But, what the fuck? Where the weed at?”
Aristotle Michelangelo: I think it would be dope to channel Kerouac’s apology for automatic writing.
“He likened writing to dreaming and fantasizing, as a substitute for life. So, he wrote The Subterraneans, in three days and nights of speed typing energized by Benzedrine — to imitate the rhythm of Bebop like free energy flow, and unrestrained association, to reveal the unconscious… because he wanted to flow from inside out in spontaneous prose!” Dystopia, Explode 2015 2.0
So, here goes… They called her Marnie — behind her back. I was torn. I played with variations of Marnie. Black Marnie. Brown Marnie, Tortilla Marnie. It’s the language of found art. Bansky, Kehinde, Jazz, Hip Hop… They teased each other. Hitchcock’s Margaret, Mary, Marnie, teases Mark, so she could get the combination, to his company safe, and steal the money. She was a Kleptomaniac, a compulsive thief. A killer. She disappears. On the run! He tracks her like an animal, and finds her at a Lodge, riding her horse to the stables. He orders her off the horse, tells her she’ll walk — he’ll ride. He interrogates her. She tells him a bullshit story she can’t keep straight. He calls it, manure! Tells her to start over from the beginning, and this time — tell the truth. Back at the Lodge – he tells her to freshen up, change her clothes so he might take her to the police – she thinks. She does not know… It’s Tippi Hedren in RL! The white woman of a black man’s dreams – when he dreams about white women. Blonde, pearly white teeth and skin — Barbie! Beckie! He tells her, they will return to ‘the house’ and announce they are engaged, would to be married within the week and then cruise around the world. Of course, she thinks he’s “Out of his mind!” He told her, it was either marriage or the police, old girl. Black Marnie. Who would play her?
They get married. Eventually he takes her virginity. She tries to commit suicide. I don’t think I want to go there… Suicide. Who should play Mark? [#nomoreslavestories.] Does he catch her?
Louis Picasso: I remember that story. He said, I caught a real animal this time. I had to train her… to trust me.*
Aristotle Michelangelo: Pussy Riot danced in the cathedral — goes to jail, and the artist nailed his scrotum to the Red Square. She’s a prisoner of love. That kind of love makes me uncomfortable, racked, and anguished like a pet must be around possessive people. The energy is ignitable like the choice between blowing up and letting go. I don’t want to belong to anyone. But, what do I know about love?
Louis Picasso: Black people don’t like black people. That’s why we’re in this — hole… barrel, bucket, duck it, fuck it… We know it’s true. Listen to the tonal center of this beat!
Aristotle Michelangelo: In sixty revolutions a minute, if it’s not organic, I can’t get with it. Hate is not organic. Hate is a social construct. I want to live the life I swam to the egg for… A social construct is like zoon pushed to the egg, by stronger swimmers behind it. It’s still goal niggaz. I want an organic experience on this gridiron. A certain freedom, mere man can’t give, conceive or contrive. I want freedom Divine. You want to be free — you have to fuggin’ work for it. Zufi?
Aristotle Michelangelo: You need money, software and rigs in the virtual world. Bombs are obsolete. Race and gender is a pastiche — game challenges for points.
Louis Picasso: Beauty and power is iconography and homely stamps are hiccups – and brick and mortar is a path to experience the destruction of daredevils and matadors — in coliseums of pestilence and poverty – empirically.
Aristotle Michelangelo: Why go there? When, life is a perfect dream in a virtual world.
Louis Picasso: IJS. Get on board with — evolution. Evolution is not physical space. It’s the diamond life in our heads on a loop. Its VR not the moon…
Louis Picasso: Now that Juneteenth is a federal holiday, it will be impossible to ignore slavery in America… Why are some Black Americans worrying about slavery in America being taught in schools? The horse is out of the barn! Instead of embracing Juneteenth and all that it implies… Black Americans are WHINING and using the language of slaves, “they won’t, let us, allow us, give us and get…” Instead black Americans are still looking the other way when a black man drags a black woman by her hair [DC], and black people are murdered by black people in Chicago – for giggles. June 19, 2021 marks the day, that Black America must acknowledge that ‘we’ are no longer slaves and assume responsibility — that’s what freedom is.
Copyright 2016, 2018, 2020 E Maria Shelton Speller. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast rewritten or redistributed without permission.
*Alfred Hitchcock, Marnie
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 of 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 east 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.”
“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!”
“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 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.
Copyright © 2004-2021 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.