Friday, January 25, 2008

Homage to Hemingway

Hemingway is credited with writing the shortest short story ever, "For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn." Every time I read, hear that, I get a chill. Chill? Oh, tell the truth. You don't get a chill, you are ruptured, torn. Your guts are pulled out, displayed, stabbed over and over and over with a dull, jagged knife. No quick clean cut, too simple. This is fluttery edges that never realign, never heal. They keloid, ugly scars like bloated leaches.

Tell the truth for once about how you feel. Me? Tell the truth? You talking to me? The great liar, the greatest liar denier crier ever born? The truth. Huh. What an alien concept. Truthful Robyn, oxymoron.


But I don't have to. It's all written down and out in my own illegible cursed cursive that even I find hard to read at times. Especially when the paper is wrinkled, a testament to tears, to what is missing. Here's to you, tears! To you tears. Here's to u-tear-us. Here's to a uterus with scarred walls, too many ridges for a placenta to attach. Here's to a uterus that shakes free whatever it decides has no place within. Here's to you.

You tear us limb from limb and push us out bit by bit, drip drip drip. Days and night, drip drip drip, slow seepage of blood and amniotic fluid as you proceed on your sickening, funereal mission, slowly expelling your dead, one scoop at a time.

Hand me a shovel, let me bury it once and for all. Rapid shoveling, no more of these individual scoops. Weeks, or does it just feel like weeks, until the blessed doctors, oh blessed 100, 99, 98, 97, 96 going under, that sweetness, until they finish the job.

Can't even finish expelling your own dead, you useless u-tear-us. A vestigial organ, a void, no point to having you if you can't do what you are meant to do. 95, 94, 93 and under. Let it be over, let it be over once and for all.

It is written.




And Lafite. Grenoble. Clover. All here, the empty books. The oh-so-empty books.

"For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn." Six words.

"Freecycle: Pregnancy diaries. 3/4 empty." Five words.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Jeff and Erica

It was Jeff's birthday the other day. And Erica's yahrzeit. She did not die on his birthday, no. She died the next day. Or that night, but not on his birthday. No.

It was a strange and terrible year, even as years go, following another strange and terrible year, a whole series in strange and terrible years. I kept my funeral shoes near the door. It seemed too much trouble to throw them in the closet when I'd only have to dig them out again a few days later. Timmy and I discussed snubbing each other. We were tired of running into each other in funeral chapels, cemeteries, wakes, shiva calls. Before that year, we were used to two or three years passing with only a phone call or christmas card. But that year? Never more than ten weeks without seeing each other.

Never more than ten.

I went to a lot of funerals that year, the year before I got married, moving guests from the "yes I will attend" column to the "deceased" column. Perhaps the wedding, wearing my dead father's necklace, my dead mother's scarf, Jeff's penny in my shoe, was a funeral of sorts, too, a funeral pickled on champagne and ice floes instead of whiskey and ice. Perhaps.

We all thought Jeff would be the last funeral. Who was left to die?

I, the bad sister-in-law, came back from Tibet to a treasure trove of mourning. My mother's death money sent me there, away from it all, and I came back a month later, spinning my prayer wheels, to find four more coffins waiting for me. Yes I'd sit and spin my prayer wheels, wood and ivory, with my little prayers tucked inside, sending them straight to heaven, straight to god. Every prayer was "Enough."

If I lined up all the coffins head to toe, head to toe, head to toe, counted the miles, I would be a fool. There was no relief that year. It was SLAM SLAM SLAM, body shots, gut shots, huge gaping holes of grief shots.

Still, there was nothing to do about it, except make whatever plans seemed to go with or against whatever grain there was and I don't know I just did and didn't think. Or I'd think and turn away from it. Twenty years later and I don't know that, that it IS twenty years later. To me it isn't, certainly not. When I let myself feel, let myself in, it is now.

The dragons have sharp claws, sharper than a serpent tooth, especially from the inside trying to get out. Dragons in full bloom that year, slowly circling the campground, waiting to pounce on the person that inadvertently? with audacity? leaves the confines of safe haven. They wait. Dragons can wait forever, they have no concept of time.

Dragons only exist in me. They aren't real. Everyone knows dragons are just more make-believe. Right? Right?

Jeff's memorial service was on his 30th birthday. That was his short range goal, to be thirty. And his long term goal? Thirty-five. This man, who had the courage to climb out of a bottle, climb out of the drug haze, this man who saved lives as easily as he snapped his fingers, this man who was truly beautiful, all he wanted was to be thirty.

Erica did not have a good day at the service. She'd spent the past sixteen months nursing her child, her firstborn, through illness after illness, as the ravening dragon inside him chewed his liver, his intestines, his heart, his brain. I stayed with her and we counted sugar dots. We even had the fancy ones with little flowers on them. Sugar dots and sugar cubes are a tradition in my family, a funeral tradition. I still have Jeff's sugar dots, a few. But we used most of them at Erica's funeral. Two days later.

Jeffrey Jan 17, 1958 to Oct 9, 1987.

Erica ???? to Jan 18, 1988.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


“I’ll loan you a sweater.”

“What sweater of yours could possibly fit me?’

“It’s cold out. I’ll find one.” She walked into the closet, stood there, looking at the piles of clothes. So many clothes...

“Oh what, you’re going to give me one of your husband's?” He sniffs, wrinkles his nose. “It smells like mothballs in here.”

“Thank you, yeah I know. No, that would be rude. Or vulgar. Or both. No, one of mine.” Flicking through the pile, she pulls out an old fisherman sweater, hands it to him. He puts it back on the shelf.

“Love, there is no sweater of yours,” moving behind her, against her, he reached around to hold her breasts. Pulled her back against him, kissed her neck. One arm now tight around her, the other slowly moved over her abdomen, back and forth, lower, until he cupped her pudenda with his hand. Rocking his hand on her, he squeezed gently. “that could ever fit me. Besides,I don’t need a sweater.” Kissing her neck, the space behind her ear, he could feel her body getting warmer. The closet filled with her scent. “I'm warm enough. I don’t need a sweater.”

“Oh god...” She arched her back slightly, shaking, feeling him against her.

“Hmm? Yes?” Moving behind her, he knelt, licked her thighs, her cleft. Stood up, pressing against her. He whispered, “I don’t need a sweater, I’m warm, I’m warm all over. You are so, so hot on me. You are so boiling on me,” as he moved inside her.

“Oh god,” she grasped the shelf, her torso almost parallel to the floor.

“I don’t need a sweater...OH GOD!”

“It’s cold out. It really is. You’re going to freeze. Here, take it already. It's the biggest one I have.”

“I look ridiculous.” Holding out his arms, the sleeves stop four inches above his wrist.

“Well, still, it has to be better than not. I don't have anything longer. The rest of it’s not too bad.” She looks at him. Sighs, shaking her head. “It’s just really short on you.”

“You’re really short on me. On the inside, too.” He picks her up, easily. She wraps her legs around him, twines them around his thighs.

“Stop, c’mon. You’re going to be so late.” She flexed her leg muscles, rubbing herself on him. “You really have to go. I have to finish my project, too.” She took a deep breath, sighed. The house smelled different when he was here. It smelled full.

“Don’t have time? You sure? You’re dripping on me, we’re dripping on me.”

She pushes the sweater up, his warm hairless flesh touching hers. She couldn’t stop touching him. Even across a room, she could feel him on her; feel the air rippling on her when he walked past. She loved the texture of his skin, little bumps and ridges, his bones barely visible. One arm around him, her hand on his lower back, the other reached up to pull his face to hers. His well-worn 501s were soft on her legs, the buttons straining against her.

Lips moving on hers, “Yes? You want? Let me take my pants off, sweetheart.”

“No, really. You have to go, I’m just playing.”

“You know how much I love you?”

“I love you more because I’m older.”

“I love you more because I’m bigger.”

“I love you more because...because I’m more compact so it’s intensified.”

“What, you’re a reduction?” He laughed, almost dropping her.

“Yeah, I like that. I’m a reduction. You’ve boiled me away leaving the most intense flavor and aroma behind. Now you can pour me over chicken or use me to make a delicious gravy.” She unwrapped herself, leaned against the wall, arms crossed, laughing.

“Stay there.” He put his foot between hers, pushed them apart. Got down on his knees and kissed her. “Yes, a reduction. Essence of you with more intense flavor and aroma. You are so addictive. If I could bottle you, I would be a rich man. “

”You really have to, really have to, really... Oh! You have to go, you’re already late.” She parted her legs a bit more. “You are going to be so late.”

“Mmph. Like I care? I’m late, I’ll be later.”

He returned the sweater three weeks later. When he said goodbye.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

where has robyn been? she has NOT been to london to visit the queen. although, now that you mention it....

i have been consumed with my day job and all that entails
(entails? in re my day job, entrails might be more apropos!)
and haven't had TIIIIIMMMMMEEEEE to post.
uh huh.
a person has time for whatever it is they deem time worthy.
yes, i've been writing. yes, i've been editing.
no, the work is not for here.
IF i set up a secondary blog, i will include the link (DUH!)
in the meantime, another 72 hours and i'll be back.
perhaps sooner.

hold onto your seats, it's going to be a bumpy night!


Wednesday, January 9, 2008


It's been a long time since she needed winter clothes, but life has been so cold lately that even in the heat she wears long sleeves. Or maybe its just to hide her arms, cover the scars. She places the shirts on the shelf, turns to take the next pile out of the box. She inhales sharply, lets the air out with a sigh. She grabs the back of a chair and steadies herself.

Where did that come from? How in god's good name did that end up here? Whatever possessed me? I've moved so many times since then. At least a dozen times in the past year alone. From bedsit to short stay to extended stay to here, finally, a place that I can call my own and now this? WTF?

A sweater.

A fisherman sweater.

An old fisherman sweater of hers that he wore once.


Over twenty years ago.

It still smells of him.

She puts her hand on the sweater, still in the box and strokes it with her fingertips. Kisses her fingers, as if they had just touched the Torah, the holy book. She picks up the sweater so carefully, holds it to her cheek and closes her eyes. Leaning against the wall, time stops.

It still smells of him, of testosterone musk, faint tang of male. She swallows, hard. The lump in her throat makes it hard to breathe, hard to think.

It still smells of him. And she is back there, in that place, with him.

Oh god.

To be back there, back then.

Rubbing her face on it, inhaling him, feeling him, the texture of him on her skin, she shudders, remembering it all. Thinks, I can feel you, taste you, taste of your skin, your nicotine scented tongue against mine. I can feel you in me.

Oh god, I remember.

She slips her arms into that sweater he wore once and made his own. She pulls it down over her face, her neck. She smooths the soft cotton on her breasts that he touched, held, loved so long ago, so once upon a time, pulls the sweater all the way down to her hips. Puts her hands on her hips the way he held her, ground her into him.

Her hands trace the cables, in out, in out, in out. The yarn loops back upon itself. Time loops back upon itself.

She is back there.

She slides down the wall, only thing holding her up all this time, to the floor. Wraps her arms, her warm sweatered arms around her knees and buries her face in them.

She breathes him in, filling her lungs.

So long ago. Today. Now.

Nota Bene: In Judaism, there are specific rituals involved with reading from the Torah, the Old Testament. You are called to the bimah, the dais, and wrapped in a tallis, prayer shawl, recite a prayer thanking god for giving us the Torah (QED). The Torah is unfurled to the week's reading. Using a point (yad) or wrapping your finger in the tallis, you read. You do NOT touch the Torah. It is holy, not to be defiled by human contact. When you have finished reading, you recite a prayer again thanking god for the gift of Torah and for truth which grows in us by reading Torah (QFD). The Torah is then closed and dressed in an embroidered covering (mantle), a silver medallion (breastplate) is hung in the front and the finials (rimonim) are put on top of the protruding rollers. The Torah is carried through the synagogue. As it passes, the congregation touches the mantle or breastplate of the Torah with a prayer book or tallis wrapped hand. You then kiss the book or tallis. You kiss AFTER it touches, not before. Because human flesh, and especially the human mouth (te geulle) are unclean, profane and cannot come in contact with the sacred, the holy of holies.
She touches the sweater and then kisses her fingers. His body was her Torah, the sweater his mantle. She cannot touch him, but she can touch what once covered him.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Cemetery

I was thinking about my brother this morning. Yes, I realize I think about him every morning (I think about you too, Big Brother, but I do not discuss you here.) but a favorite incident has been tickling my brain the past few days. David was a character. We all have slightly twisted senses of humor, ways of dealing with our past that some may find a bit off-setting.

We have more dead than many people of our generation. Well, perhaps not now, not now that I am a little old lady, much closer to my demise, so close I can smell the cordite and treacle, than I am to my beginning, but when we were in our twenties, it seemed we were the only two who had more relatives in Wellwood Cemetery than in our phone book.

Every time ten people in my phone book die, I replace my phone book.

I have had many phone books.

I don't keep a physical phone book any longer. That is another story.

So, David and I would often talk of our dead, our ghosts, speak of them and to them. I still do. He still does. We had a nice little chat yesterday morning. He agreed that the new purple sheets were a really nice shade of purple and reminded me to wash them before first use. And I better watch out, the last time I had purple sheets, I was five years old and ended up head to toe purple hives. I replied, these are sheets, not sulfa drugs. Which also turn me purple, FYI. As do other medications, but not penicillin. I am such an old fashioned old lady. Give me a poultice of moldy bread, that'll fix me right up, good as new. But I digress.

Back to David, who was also allergic to sulfa drugs but took large dosages of them during the week before he died, blood pouring out of every orifice in his body, the morning after they would not let me see him, his visitor passes already in use, his phone line dead. I stood there in the hospital lobby, so desperate to go upstairs, making such a scene, hoping they would have rachmunis on me. They threatened to have me arrested, sent me out into the night.

The doctor called me at 6:15 the next morning.

I was already awake, waiting.

I was already awake, waiting when my mother called to say that my dad had died.

I was already awake, waiting when my uncle called to say that my mom had died.

I was already awake, waiting when Kay called to say Richie had died.

Is that why I never sleep?

Am I always waiting for the phone to ring?

Alright, Robyn, you wanted to tell a tale, stop staring at the computer screen. The flickering diodes hold no answers, no insights. The warmth and pressure of the laptop on my thighs will have to suffice as an answer, a comfort. It is the closest I get to losing myself in physical pleasure, the solace, my drug of choice to make it all go away for a while. It is the closest I get to not being alone.

David was widowed. After a while, he dated. He would meet men in bars or at clubs or wherever and decide whether or not they were worthy of going home with him. When the first throes of mourning had passed, the random faceless fucking of shloshim, he resumed his selective tendencies and decided to pursue a relationship. After a third or fourth or fifth date, he'd determine whether or not to introduce the person to his family.

"I want you to meet my family."

"Wow, I am honored. Great. When?"

"Now is as good a time as any."

The person hopped on the back of David's bike and wrapped his arms around David, thinking, oh wow, I am going to meet Kid Sister and Most Amazing Niece and maybe even Long Suffering Brother in Law. This is great, I must really rate.

And they took off. Down Eastern Parkway, Linden Blvd, onto the Southern State they'd fly, exceding whatever the posted speed limit was (you thought I was the only one who exceeds the speed limit? Daddy and David were each ticketed at over 100 mph.) until they turned in at the gates of Wellwood. David would continue, much slower, pulling up in front of our parents' tombstones.

"XYZ, I'd like you to meet my parents. Mom, Dad, this is XYZ. Okay, Grandma and Aunt Ettie are right over here and then I'll introduce you to Jeff and Erica. And Cousin Irving, he's in the front. Oh. You thought I was going to introduce you to Kid Sister? Maybe later."

Depending on whether the person politely introduced himself to the granite markers, helped trim the bushes, laid pebbles on the base of each grave, how the person responded to David's dead determined whether he would get to meet David's living.

Not a bad way of winnowing the wheat from the chaff.

Maybe one day I'll tell you about David and Vita's list of repairs.

Monday, January 7, 2008


Today, this morning, I made biscuits.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Don’t look at me.
I am invisible.
Don’t want you.
Don’t want you
to know me
find me
see me inside myself,
all built up scar tissue.
Don’t touch me!
You’ll tear the scabs
I’ll bleed.
Oh, I will bleed and bleed and bleed
tears of blood stream from my eyes.

My brother cried blood when he died.

Hover over me
Heat touches me before flesh.
Oh gods
Settle into me
so slow, so careful
Am I that fragile?
Every bone broken, set.
It hurts
it hurts to breathe.
Cry out
not in passion.
In pain.
In fear.
I cry.

Why are you here?
Why you and not not not-
No ghosts.
Push them back,
back into their corners, boxes, closets.
Lock them up and throw away the key.
You can’t lock up ghosts.

Stop taunting me with kisses
remembered touch.

Help me forget.
Dip your fingers in the whitewash,
cover it.
I am fevered, raw, exposed.
Kiss me.
Oh god,
kiss me.
Make it all go away.


Saturday, January 5, 2008

G'te Voch, G'te Yur

Tonight, I went out with youngest child to see the
Osbourne Lights at Disney/MGM.
Got back to my apartment about 15 minutes ago.
I hung my mezzuzot.
I lived at HBK for 7 years and I managed to find every

reason to NOT put up mezzuzah, despite having a few
dozen in wood, metal, ceramic, glass, leather
(oh yesssss...purple and silver leather mezzuzah....oh yesss).
This will be my second night here.
And they are up.

New Year, New Place, New Life

Odd feeling, to be typing 2008. My first post of the new year, overdue by a few days I feel, but I will use the excuse that I’ve been working, training, moving and otherwise too busy to tend to the insides of my own head, not that anyone is particularly interested in the madness that resides there besides myself.


That’s not true. You, dear reader, are interested, must be interested in whatever amusement, insight, twist I bring to play on this game we call life, this game-not-game we call love.

Or why would you be here?

It is early morning. I am awake in my newest place, no more moving around, running, running. I have a lease, a for-real lease. Not a day-to-day, week-to-week thing here, a lease. I have space. I have rooms.



All I have in the way of furniture is a bed which is WAAAAYYY too far from the floor and a chair.

My own bed. It is the first bed that is all mine since I was a child. And I can do whatever I like to decorate it, I have no one else I have to please or accommodate in terms of headboard or linen selection. I can pile the pillows and blankets as high as I want. I can hang drapes from the ceiling and twinkling lights, make believe I am looking at stars when I cannot sleep. Make believe I am beautiful in the dim light, small consolation for being alone, make believe.

What woman really believes she is beautiful?

If I am beautiful, then why am I alone?

It is all so much make believe.

So many rooms here, a full kitchen so I can make scones or biscuits or whatever every day if I choose, so much space. So what do I do?

I drag the only other piece of furniture I have into the bedroom, the oversized folding chair and set it in a corner. Once again, I am living in one small space, wrapped as tight to me as possible. I need to make it tight, hold myself with the walls.

There is no one to hold me.

And there are no memories here to hold me.

It is clean, sterile.

The place I’ve been the past six months, had many memories. I came in, it was full of memories. Every stain on the carpet, every cigarette burn on the furniture was its own memory. And I made memories there. I built a life of sorts. I lived there. I was Rapunzel in her tower, standing at the window, listening to the honking cars, a symphony of brake lights, waiting for her lover to climb her plaited hair, wrap her tresses round his hand and kiss her. I was.

I waited so many nights.

Leaving there, yesterday morning, the shadows stand there, taunting me. They walk back and forth, remove glasses from the cupboard, turn the TV around, prop the pillows up, throw the blankets on the floor. I sit on the edge of the bed, my last morning, and watch them. They talk to me, scenes replayed over and over, and the tears come, oh god, the tears come.

I cannot stop crying.

I walk to the window, one last time. Look out at the lights, the morning rush hour traffic. I watch the red lights as I did so many nights when I could not sleep. Watching traffic does not cure insomnia. And it is small comfort to know there are others wandering the streets, restless and alone.

The window sill..... I brush it with my fingertips, trace the shadows on it. Even the window sill has ghosts. I turn, look down on the bed, my home, my workplace, my safe house, my everything these many months. I cannot touch it.

At this point, I should be used to having my guts ripped out. It is not the first time, it is not the last. Vivisection is not unknown to me. I do not need a saber to perform seppuku. My dragon’s claws will rend me and chew my intestines as they spill upon the floor, an unsightly train to my fleshly wedding gown.

I am still crying.

I try not to let the door hit me on the ass as I leave.