Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Storyteller's Creed


I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge,
That myth is more potent than history,
That dreams are more powerful than facts,
That hope always triumphs over experience,
That laughter is the only cure for grief,
And I believe that love is stronger than death.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A Blessing


May the Warm Winds of Heaven blow softly upon your house,
May the Great Spirit bless all who enter there,
May your Moccasins make happy tracks in the snows,
and may the Rainbow always touch your shoulder.

-Native American blessing-

Monday, 28 November 2011

My New Favourite Pants

See, I am not very fashionable. I take comfort over style any day.

Which is why these are my new favourite pants.

Here I am, showing them off at the E&O.



They are sooooo comfortable you wouldn't believe it. Who cares if people give me sidelong glances and snigger appreciatively? They are still my new favourite pants. I bought them at the foot of the Kek Lok Si temple (which makes them semi-holy, and no, not in a bad way).

Funny thing happened at Kek Lok Si. Jackie was paying for some wind chimes she had bought for the big M and a pretty Chinese fan. She was vaguely aware of someone standing close by casting a huge shadow and she thought, hmmm, Jennifer has really put on. (put on what? weight of course. what else is there?).

Then she looked up at the porker blocking the sun, and surprise, surprise, it wasn't me. It was this little tadiyan (fatty). She quickly came over to me and said...look over there, look at that boy.

So I looked. And then she told me the story. I nearly fell off a high place laughing.

Jennifer has really put on?

Sigh. Yes she has.

And Penang hasn't helped.

Never mind, at least I fit my favourite pants.

Penang was fantastic. Here are Jackie and Simon waiting for the inclined train to take us back down the hill. We'd been up to see the huge statue of Kuan Yin.



We spent a lot of time walking around in the hot sun. Getting lost. But managing to put away quite a bit nonetheless. Banana leaf. Nasi lemak. Roti canai. Pasembor. Nasi kandar. Mee goreng mamak. Char kueh teow. Assam laksa. Chicken rice. Pork satay. Lo Mee. Apple tart. Kahlua brownies. Hazelnut gamache. World-famous cendol. Gelati.

This funny ais kachang that wasn't quite ais kachang as it used fruit instead of kachang.



Oh yeah, we made our pilgrimage to Crag Hotel. This is my third time there. First time in 2002. Second time in 2004. It hasn't changed. Although last I heard, Amanresorts had bought the building and were going to do something fantastic with it. We wandered through the ruins, fascinated.

Here's the traditional pose in front of the building.



Isn't it lovely?

In other words, Penang was a blast. We ate too much, talked to many, many strangers (that was me, not Simon or Jackie), walked all over the place, got lost (here Sue-Ann's sat nav that we named Dora the Explorer, among other things, because she had a disturbing habit of trying to get us to drive into the sea, came in handy).

Please observe the speed limit.

Please observe the speed limit.

Please observe the speed limit.


I still like my pants.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Birthday Festivities



It was the perfect birthday. Jackie said I'm very difficult to plan for...I won't tell them what I want...I say "anything" when they ask...but right about the day or the day before the day...I said I would prefer home-cooked food.

Now home-cooked food requires ingredients. They settled on mutton rendang, mint and coriander rice and manchurian cauliflower. We went to the market. OK, there was a little contretemps before going. Jackie and Simon wanted to go alone. They asked for a list. I was glued to the TV. Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, a birthday present. Mum wanted to go to. But she didn't want to go alone. Because then it would be three...and three, as everyone knows, is unlucky.

So there I was, one eye on the TV, another on the tantrum taking place...and so I clicked "pause" and then we took off for the market. Without the Big M. During which time, Jackie taught me a new word "intransigent". Which means stubborn or immoveable. Simon pointed out that it could be interchangeable for any of the Jacobs.

Jackie and I nodded.

It could.

We arrived at the market, got a good parking place, did our shopping quick smart (the mutton fler cheated us, and he asked me where I was from...I thought it was weird until I remembered that I was wearing my famous teal beret which I barely took off all birthday) and dangly turquoise earrings which is not accepted attire for the wet market.

Anyway we got home, I resumed watching TV and Jackie rushed around getting lunch ready. A few contretemps later and it was. And it was delicious. The manchurian cauliflower was a surprise...kind of like biting into what you assume to be sweet and sour pork and you find a cauliflower inside. The rendang was to die for. The rice was drool-worthy.

Just as Jackie had given up on the lemon pudding (gosh oh gee I do love lemon puddin' on account of it's my favourite puddin') Esther arrived. With an ice cream cake...I tell you serendipity and serendipity...so we cut the cake, took lots of pictures until we realised that cake was melting all over the table...served it up with port...a good time was had by all.

Ended the day watching Kungfu Panda 2. So I'm thinking about the three movies I chose to watch on my 40th birthday - High Fidelity - which is kind of about committing to love, Field of Dreams - which is about following that voice in your head no matter how strange it is - and Kungfu Panda 2 - which is about inner peace.

Is that to set the theme for the year?

I wonder...

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Divine Intervention

This happened a while ago, but I think it deserves a place in this blog. Because it was uncanny and spooky, yet remarkably joyful. I had about RM5 in my wallet and was going for lunch with my friend and colleague Sue-Ann. So there we are strolling along to the ATM machines and I move to the CIMB machine and proceed with my transaction.

All smooth.

Then I hear Sue-Ann swear and turn to notice her regarding the RHB ATM machine as if it's some sort of ugly black snake, writhing around on red hot coals.

She has inserted her card.

But it says "Please insert card."

You see the problem.

We start pressing all the buttons on the machine. To no avail. It displays various screens (mostly ads) and then one, with a number to call if the machine has swallowed your card.

One problem, however.

It's an RHB machine. The card is a Public Bank card.

So when Sue-Ann finally gets through, the customer care consultant (sic) on the other end proceeds to tell her that sorry, it's not their problem. Call Public Bank.

Sue-Ann is getting more and more agitated. Understandably. We exist in an age where the lack of your ATM card is nothing short of catastrophic. And here is the person saying...sorry, call Public Bank.

Observing this drama, pressing buttons futilely on the machine, I get a gentle prompting.

"Stick your card in."

I shake my fist at gentle prompting.

"Are you crazy? My card will get swallowed up too. It will achieve nothing except for both of us to be pissed. And ATM card-less. Not a good state to be in KL."

And the prompting continues.

"Stick your card in."

I open my wallet and consider. There's the Maybank card (which I can more afford to lose). There's the Public Bank card (which I can't). There's my new Christmas Starbucks card (but the machine will know it's not an ATM card, wrong proportions).

So keeping tight hold of the Maybank card, I prod it into the card slot. And then take it out.

A miracle occurs. A prompt comes up on the screen.

Enter your PIN number.

Sue-Ann is still arguing with bimbo on phone. I nudge her. "Sue Ann, enter your number."

She does...and then proceeds to withdraw her money like it was all OK, and not a scene straight out of quick descent into hell like it was two minutes ago.

We're both gobsmacked. Sue-Ann laughs, relieved.

"Lunch is on me," she says.

Friday, 25 November 2011

I Turn 40 Today




This is from one of my favourite books ever, The Treehouse: Eccentric Wisdom from My Father on how to Live, Love and See by Naomi Wolf, whom you probably know from her book, The Beauty Myth. When I first read it, it was as if every word spoke to me, affirmed what I believed was true.

I am choosing to feature this piece today because it's my 40th birthday. I was wondering why I was inspired to do this blog this year, and I guess, this is the answer. I turn 40.

I really thought I'd be further along at 40 and I would have "achieved", "gained", "earned" so much more than I did.

I can't fault my 30s. Some of my favourite years of all time were in my 30s, especially those three years when I was in Australia, studying creative writing, that course that had all sensible raise their eyebrows and snort in derision. It didn't matter. The sheer joy of reading poetry and writing about Shakespeare (for assignments!) made it all seem like I was walking through a dream.

And I wrote.

And people loved what I wrote.

And sometimes, it didn't even matter whether they did or not. I remember one story I wrote, Molly-Auntie, for my monologue, for one of the first classes I took, Language and Writing. And I remember as I finished writing it and I was flying...there was this rush. I walked home after in this rush, my head sort of swimming. It was winter, the air was icy, and I had to push my bike all the way to that cold, cold house in which I was renting a room in Menora.

And I was warm. And I was happy. And I was high.

And I didn't come down from that high for three whole days.

(No opiate has ever lasted that long...not that I've tried all or even some of them)

So, anyway, here is my excerpt for the day. The philosophy that I choose to follow, however imperfectly:

My dad is still a very handsome man: six feet two and distinguished-looking. He has an aquiline nose, fierce white eyebrows that seem to have lives of their own, gray-white hair that, depending on how it is brushed, makes him look either like an elderly Lord Byron seated at a formal dinner or like a homeless man having an alarming vision, and smiling hazel-brown eyes.

He is a teacher, and has taught in every kind of setting, for almost sixty years. He changes people's lives because he believes that everyone is here on earth as an artist; to tell his particular story or sing her irreplaceable song; to leave behind a unique creative signature. He believes that your passion for this, your feelings about this, must take priority over every other reasoned demand: status, benefits, sensible practices.

Leonard feels that your medium may be words or music or paint; it could also be the guiding of an organization, the banking of a certain kind of cake, the edging of a garden, the envisioning of a new kind of computer network, or the gesture that brushes the hair away from the forehead of a hurt child. What matters to my father is not whether the creative work is valued in the marketplace; what mattes to him is whether or not it is yours.

He wants to know you have have put your emotion into it, driven your artist's discipline into it, seen it through to completion and signed your name to it, if only in your own mind. If you do, he believes, your work comes alive and gives life to those around you. And it gives life, he is sure, to you.

My dad makes Xerox copies at Kinko's of the phrase Verba volant/Scripta manent - 'Spoken words fly away, but writing remains' - meaning, get it down, do your creative work, whatever it is. He passes out the Xeroxes to everyone he thinks needs reminding: his grandchildren, his acquaintances, the guy at the cleaners.

He believes that each of us arrived here with this unique creative DNA inside us. If we are not doing that thing which is our innate mission, then, he feels, no matter how much money or status we might have, our lives will feel drained of their true color. He believes that no amount of money or recognition can compensate you if you are not doing your life's passionate creative work; and if you are not doing it, you had better draw everything to a complete stop until you can listen deeply to your soul, identify your true heart's desire, and change direction. It's that urgent.

Leonard believes if that particular story of yours is not told - if storytelling is your medium - or if that certain song is not sung - if you are meant to sing - and even if there is almost no one to hear it at the end, then it is not just the artist who has sustained a quiet tragedy; the world has, too.

Leonard believes that you can learn how to live from literature, from art, and that they key to leading a happy, meaningful life is to be found not primarily from the self-help section of a bookstore or from a therapist's couch, but from paying careful attention to poetry, to whatever constitutes poetry for you.

All my life, I have seen how his faith in this possibility - that an artist inheres in everyone - actually does change people's lives: the students he has taught over the course of four decades are changed, but so are the lives of people who are simply passing through. His faith in ordinary people's innate artistry gives him a kind of magic touch. I have seen how his belief has led people with whom he has come into casual contact - friends of mine, friends of his, strangers he meets on trains, the staff in his building - to suddenly drop whatever is holding them from their real creative destiny and shift course; to become happier.

When people spend time around my dad, they are always quitting their sensible jobs with good benefits to become schoolteachers, or agitators, or lutenists. I have seen students of his leave high-paying jobs that were making them miserable, or high-status social positions that had been scripted by their families, and follow their hearts in the face of every kind of opposition to become, say, dirt-poor teachers of children in the mountain villages of the Andes. I've seen snapshots they send back to him, of themselves with their tattered, clowning kids, their faces suffused with joy. They have found their poetry.

My father believes in passionate love, in placing passionate love at the very top of your list of priorities and in making room for passion at the center of your romantic life, no matter how domestic it is. He believes no one should settle for less. His students are always leaving safe but not essential relationships and finding something truer - whether it is a fierce attachment to someone they would have overlooked before as being 'unsuitable', or whether it is taking a risk of solitude in a renewed search for their soul's real mate.

My dad routinely addresses the artist in them, and his students respond accordingly: as artists. This is not calculated on his part; it is truly what he sees. Other teachers have used similar unself-conscious tricks; I think often of Martin Luther King, Jr, who always addressed the innate peacemaker in everyone to whom he spoke - even those people who were trying to wipe him from the face of the earth. I think the great teachers always speak to the potential they see in their students as if through an X ray and, not to the actual student as he or she appears at that moment to the less intuitive eye.

My dad is never surprised at the treasures that come back his way. The superintendent of my father's building, John Maudsley - a man who is very good at his job - talked to my father one day and disclosed secret passion: in his off hours, he painted: he was 'a sign painter and frustrated artist,' as he put it. Leonard did whatever magical thing he does - which is as simple as saying a matter-of-fact 'Yes, of course, this is your calling' - that ignites the power of imagination in otherwise 'ordinary' people.

Now, in buildings throughout the neighborhood, you can see the masterpieces that emerged from Mr Maudsley's basement: a rocking horse painted a gleaming sky blue, with velvet-black reins festooned with crimson roses, as if it has escaped from a merry-go-round; a persimmon desk-and-bench set scaled to the size of a toddler, with gold and violet edging - all are influenced by the brilliant palette of the mind's eye.

He is still a super, and still a good one. But over time, the super's office seems to me to have changed, showing the artist, too: there is a mock-Tiffany lamp illuminating the steel-gray file cabinets with parti-colored light, and a line of toy antique trucks, orange, black, and yellow, is parked across from the Formica desk and the standard-issue office chair. The sensibility changes the room, the job, the life, though it is the same room and job and life. In addition, something unique to him that derives from his upbringing, as well as from his own individual eye, is blooming in the living rooms of Manhattan. Mr Maudsley seems to me a happy man.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Discontented Village


The fire is slowly dying
And my dear, we're still goodbye-ing
But as long as you love me so
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...


Christmas songs are playing on the computer and I'm in the mood for tinsel and ribbons, the smell of baking cookies, the house littered with wrapping paper, cards half-written, scrambling for addresses...it's that time of the year!

For today I thought I'd share a parable...one I read when I was an itty bitty one. In other words, a long time ago. You know what they say...when you're young, you're not old.


There was once a village that had every reason to be the happiest in the world but was in fact the saddest. It was situated in a pleasant valley with protecting mountains all around. It had fertile fields, industrious workers, and a prosperous market-place. But it was not happy because there lived in it not one contented inhabitant. Each person believed himself weighed down with troubles like an old nag with bones. And what is more, each believed his troubles were heavier than any of his neighbour's. If you saw a little group of people standing together and sidled over to hear what they were talking about, youw ould find yourself listening not to good talk about the weather, or crops, or the price of cheese, or the arrival of a new baby. No - you wuld hear nothing but talk of trouble.

"Ah me," like as not one would be saying, "was there ever a more unfortunate man than I? Things are so bad with me that troubled has moved right into my house and is now a steady boarder."

"What do you know about trouble?" his neighbour answers. "Trouble is so familiar with me, he calls me by name."

"Have you heard?" a third chimes in. "Trouble is calling me brother."

It is said where there is smoke, there must be a fire. Perhaps there is good reason for such talk? Let us see.

Here is the miller - a fine man, sole owner of a busy mill, completely free and master of himself. He earns more than one pretty penny and no one to tell him what to do with it. But is he happy? No. Why not? Because he has no wife.

"The baker, now," sighs the miller. "The baker is a happy man. When he comes home at the end of the day his place is neat and his supper hot upon the table. What does he know of having to shift for himself? What does he know of trouble?"

And the baker - is he happy? No. And why not? Because he has no child.

"What is the use of putting up with the restrictions of married life," mumbles the baker, "if there is no child to look after a man in his old age? It is an unfair world. Here I have none and the carpenter has six."

And the carpenter - is he happy? No. And why not? Because he has too many children. All day long the carpenter complains: By my hammer and nails, is there a curse on me? Other men's children grow like weeds and are soon farm hands and wage earners. But mine, now they stay on all fours for ever and the cradle never empty. Ah me, does any man have such troubles as I?"

And what about the people whose children are grown - are they happy? No. And why not? Listen, and you shall hear.

Here is the tailor with a good steady son, a dreamer and a scholar. "Of what use are dreamers and scholars?" moans the tailor. "The world is too busy for dreaming and too much learning leads but to destruction. Now why, if only one child was given me, could it not have been a strong, ambitious lad like the tinker's or a pretty girl like the widow's - a girl who will marry well and keep her mother in comfort?"

But the tinker is unhappy because his strong, ambitious lad is ever off adventuring and the widow is unhappy because her pretty daughter will have none of the rich farmer's son but is casting soft glances in the direction of the scholar. And so the tinker and the widow complain too.

"Children seldom grow up good and steady and obedient," they both wail. "Children are best when they're in the cradle. Yes, the carpenter with his little ones, and the baker and the miller with no children at all - they are happy men."

And the carpenter and the baker and the miller? We have already heard them.

And so it went. The people who worked envied those who loafed and those who loafed envied those who worked and made money. And the young longed for the irresponsibilities of old age and the old wept for their lost youth. And if they didn't have any immediate reason for being unhappy, you can be sure they looked hard enough until they found one.

So day by day this discontent grew, and the moans and groans and mumbles and grumbles rose like a great thick fog. And one day the fog hid the sun. So busy were the people at first with their troubles that they paid no attention, but when many sunless hours went by, it occured to them that here was trouble indeed, touching all of them.

"Truly we are an unhappy folk," they now cried, all together. "Even the sun won't shine on us."

Out of the gloom one day came a traveler. It had been murky for so long that no one expected any visitors, and the first the villagers knew of his approach was the sound of a merry voice singing gaily:

Heigh ho,
Life is jolly,
Content is wisdom,
Complaint is folly.


The people gathered in the main street to see who it was that subscribed to such an outlandish theory. And presently there emerged out of the gloom a tall figure. It was a man, not old, not young; not well-dressed, not shabby; not loaded with provisions, yet not entirely bereft, for the small bundle slung over his shoulder seemed comfortably full. He stopped in front of the people and put down his bundle.

"Greetings," he said. "Forgive me, my friends, for not giving you the good of the morning or the evening, for by my life, how is a man to tell in this gloom if it be day or night here?"

"The sun has deserted the world," said one of the villagers. "And," he added severely, "small cause for singing, I should say.

The stranger smiled. "The sun is shining warm and bright somewhere, I warrant. When this fog lifts, you will see."

The villager regarded him suspiciously. This cheerful comment was not to his liking. "Who are you?" he asked bluntly.

"I?" The stranger shrugged his shoulders. "I am no one and every one. I am a homeless wanderer but own the earth."

"Poor man," said another villager. "Trouble has addled your brain."

"Trouble?" said the stranger. "Now that is a word I do not know."

The people crowded round him and examined him closely.

"Are you ill?" they asked in amazement. "How can you say you know not trouble with no hearth or fire or chick or child to call your own?" Wandering over the face of the earth, and walking without rest. That does not make for any foolish philosophy of contentment. That makes for trouble. Trouble in the form of weary legs.

"Ah well," said the stranger, "there is no ill but somewhere a cure exists for it. And as for weary legs, the best cure is to take the weight off them."

And down he sat, under a tree.

The villagers gathered around him open-mouthed. And the stranger calmly sat there. Finally the miller said, "Well now, since you are so much-traveled, perhaps in your wanderings you have heard of a cure for fog."

"Perhaps," said the stranger. He rose, turned his long nose up, then down, the this way, then that. He sniffed like a dog. Then he stuck out his tongue, tasted the fog, and made a wry face. "This is no ordinary fog," he said. "for, unpleasant as it is, fog is still nothing but vapour, and vapour is nothing but water which neither smells nor tastes bad. Still this looks like fog, and it feels like fog. It must be some special kind, caused by something most disagreeable. If I knew the cause, I might know the cure."

"We do not know the cause," said the baker. "The sun suddenly left us. I remember it was some time ago. I was thinking of how unhappy I was when - "

"Yes," interrupted the carpenter. "I was thinking of how little reason other have for unhappiness, compared to me, when - "

The tailor interrupted the carpenter and the tinker interrupted the tailor and soon everyone was shouting.

And as they shouted the fog grew thicker and thicker.

"Stop!" cried the stranger. "It needs no Solomon to see what is wrong here. Well. Well. There is no ill but somewhere a cure exists for it. Yes, even for this ill."

"What what might the cure be?" asked the widow, eagerly.

"Simple," said the stranger. "if you will listen carefully and follow instructions."

All the people solemnly and silently nodded their heads.

The stranger sat down again.

"Now then," he said, "let's see: you must string up a stout line fron one end of the market-place to the other. Then you must each go home and put your troubles into a sack -"

"No sack in the world is large enough to contain mine," cried the carpenter.

"Nor mine," sighed the widow.

"Nor mine," wailed the tailor.

"Nor mine," cried they all.

The stranger frowned. "Well then, if you will not listen and will not obey - " He began to rise once more.

And the fog grew thicker and thicker.

"Stay!" cried the people. "We will manage somehow. Let us hear the cure."

The stranger sat back once more.

"Then you must each go home and put your troubles into a sack," he said again, "and bring the sacks down to the market-place and hang them up on the line. Then you must step back - a good way back - and wait until I give you the signal. At the signal each of you may rush forward and take any sack he wishes off the line. For the fog will not lift until you stop your complaining."

The people were entranced. Their eyes gleamed and thoughts rushed through their heads like scurrying mice. No doubt you have already guessed what these thoughts were. Each person saw himself quickly getting rid of his troubles by grabbing his neighbour's sack. And each hugged the wicked thought close to himself, for fear his neighbour might catch it.

The stranger leaned back against the tree and peering through the gloom watched the villagers string up the line. Then they made for their homes and presently he saw them again - each lugging a sack. They reached the market-place and within much panting hung the sacks up on the line.

Then they drew back - a good way back - and then stood or sat in little groups.

The stranger did not move. Every eye was fastened on him, but he gave no sign.

So they waited. Still no sign.

And still they waited. And still no sign.

Finally the people took their eyes off the stranger and fixed them upon this line of sacks. Each person heaved a mighty sigh as he looked at his own sack and compared it with his neighbour's, for of course, to each one his own sack loomed largest and heaviest. They looked again at the stranger. Still no sign. So they turned back to the sacks. And they gazed and they gazed, and as they gazed they began to think, and as they thought their musing took an unusual turn.

The carpenter's eyes had been darting from the sack of the tailor to the sack of the tinker; from the sack of the tinker to the sack of the widow. Presently he fixed his gaze on the widow's sack. The carpenter sits up with a start. Is it possible? Can that be the widow's sack dragging on the ground, while his, the carpenter's, swings gaily and lightly above? The carpenter recalls it is many weeks since the village has seen ribbon or flounce of the widow's pretty daughter. The girl went off to her aunt vowing she would not return until the scholar was made welcome in the widow's home. Into the carpenter's ears comes the joyous sound of his little children's jolly voices, and into the carpenter's heart comes the proud knowledge that disobedience is unknown in his home. But for how long?

"Ah me," thinks the carpenter, "how short a while are children little; how short a time do they obey us; how quickly are they grown up and become wilful and independent; how apt to go off and leave the home empty and the parents lonely and sorrowful." for the first time in his life, the carpenter remembers gratefully the extreme youth of his own children. He turns in pity to the widow, but the widow's eyes are glued to the carpenter's sack... A terror grips the carpenter.

The tailor's gaze is fixed on the tinker's sack. Suddenly he sits up with a start. Is it possible? Can the tinker's sack be bigger than his? Into the tailor's mind flashes the rumours he has been hearing of war. He sees the tinker's strong, ambitious son march off. His own son, the frail scholar and dreamer, stays behind. Will the tinker ever see his son again? The tailor's heart almost stops beating. Into his mind comes the thought: When the world is weary of hate and destruction and sick over the loss of the young and the strong, it will turn to the comfort which the dreamers wil bring and the healing the scholars will send. For dreams are ever made of hope, and from learning comes understanding, and in understanding lies man's salvation. The tailor's eyes grow moist. But the tinker's gaze is fixed upon the tailor's sack... A sudden terror grips the tailor.

The miller has been keeping one eye on the stranger and one on the baker's sack. But when he turned both his eyes on tha baker's sack, he sat up with a start. Was it possible? Could it be that the baker's sack was larger than his? The miller stares and thinks. It occurs to him that he never sees the baker in the tavern of an evening. "That wife of his," the men say, "she won't let him enjoy a glass of ale with us. Poor man, he cannot call his soul his own." The miller thinks and stares. "Everyone knows," he recalls his cronies saying, "that the tongue of the baker's wife is tied in the middle and wags from both ends. Poor man, he knows not one peaceful moment." The miller looks with sympathy at the baker. But the baker had decided that little children mean small troubles, and big children mean larger troubles, and a wife means trouble all the time. So he does not meet the miller's sympathetic look. His eyes are riveted on the miller's sack... A sudden terror grips the miller.

And so it happened that as each one of the villagers turned greedy eyes on some one else's sack, it was only to see that the sack he coveted was always bigger and heavier than his own. And gradually each pair of eyes came to rest on its own sack and each heart beat impatiently for the signal. And as people's hearts filled with thoughts of pity and compassion and sympathy and gratitude - and content - the fog began to lift. The air became sweet and cool and clear. A full moon sailed the sky, lighting up the whole market-place. Like a silver ship, the moon followed her starry course and eventually disappeared in the west. In the east a faint glow appeared behind the mountains. The glow turned pink and gold and orange, and when the happy face of the sun just peeped over the mountains, the stranger rose and stretched himself.

The people were overjoyed to see the sun. And now they noticed too that the fog had gone. They breathed deeply of the sweet, cool, clear air. Oh never again would they pollute it with complaints.

But the sign. Would it never be given? They turned anxiously to the stranger. He picked up his bundle, slung it slowly over his shoulder, and called out: "Go!"

Off like a shot went each of the villagers. And straight as an arrow did each one head for his very own sack.

How light each felt to its owner as he took it off the line. And how happy was each man to have his own sack once more.

They turned to thank the stranger - but there was no one under the tree. The soft morning breeze brought them back the echo of a song:

Heigh ho,
Life is jolly,
Content is wisdom,
Complaint is folly.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Voice Through The Door



(The Portal by Emmeline Craig)

Sometimes you
hear a voice through the
door calling you...
This turning toward what you
deeply love saves you.


Rumi, from "A Voice Through The Door"

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Moment Passes

You're like marble
You know what you know
You remember what you remember
which is everything
or at least
everything that matters.

You tell me how things are
there are no points of view,
and you're sure, so sure
as you lay down the law.

THIS IS IT!

Carved in your voice
That granite certainty
It falls into me
like a stone
and there
it dissolves.

For I'm like
writing in the sand
the tide washes in
the words wash away
I can't hold on
and there is no tomorrow
everything passes
everyone leaves
everything passes away.

I wish I could hold on
to a moment
for more than a moment
but I can't.

The moment passes
washes away
and I don't even remember
why I wanted it to stay.

The moment passes
each day swept clean
no memory, no pain
nothing to hold on to
not even you.

The moment passes
and I say
it's good
I don't remember
it's good
I can't hold on

And I say
please,
please,
please...

Just

Let

It

Pass.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Pulling a Jennifer

I pulled a Jennifer today. It's good to pull a Jennifer because it amuses the people around me. And selfless as I am, I exist to amuse.

I received a cheque today. A long-awaited one. One that I wish arrived earlier so it would have cleared by now and I could have finished my Christmas shopping. Instead, it arrived today. Rain or no rain I was determined to bank it in. Like immediately. OK, almost immediately. I mean I needed to go back to bed. Also read a little William. Also watch some TV. Also make vague attempts to pretend to help Jackie who is cleaning the balcony in earnest (she sorted toys and recycleable books today).

Anyway, I bustled downstairs at about 2.30pm and declared my intention of going to bank in the cheque. Mommy, whose eyes were riveted on her Indonesian drama serial, Bawang Merah, Bawang Putih, told me to wait a while so she could follow me.

"No, no I want to go now. I'll go alone. You go get your Christmas cards and I'll post it for you. (you see this Mommy ah? I post my cards on November 15 and she posts hers on December 19)

Poor Mom shifted her gaze reluctantly from the TV and went upstairs to look for her cards. After tapping my fingers impatiently for all of five minutes I went to the stairs and shouted: "Hey Mom! Just give me the cards, I don't want you to come with me."

"What if you can't get parking?"

"Aiya, the whole bloody place is flooded. Surely there'll be less cars on the road and I'll get parking. No problem. Stop changing and just give me the cards!"

(When I'm impatient, I'm impatient)

Anyway after faffing about for a further 15 minutes during which time I chafed in irritation, swore softly under my breath and found myself on verge of apoplexy, Mom gave me her cards and a bill she wanted settled. I took off. Still raining. I took the flooded road first and then had to do a U-ey as it was impassable. Sort of like a lake. Came out in the news later that night, that road. (Is JB famous or what?)

Being the bright spark that I am, I found my way to the Post Office through an alternate route. (OK it's brilliant cos I don't really live in JB and I don't know the roads here very well. What do you mean I spend half my time here so I should have learned by now?)

Anyway Mom was right. It WAS chock-a-block. No parking whatsoever, except for slim ants and maybe some slender cockroaches. Being Malaysian, however, I proceeded to park illegally and charge for the Post Office where I settled all business in a very short time.

Feeling very pleased with myself I took off for City Square where I would bank my precious cheque and do some light shopping. As I was now filled with love and light and feeling a little guilty for snapping at her earlier and making her miss the last excruciating 10 minutes of Bawang Merah, Bawang Putih, I called Mom and asked if she wanted me to buy anything for tea. Also the newspaper. She said yes to both.

(Do you get the God is in His heaven and all is right with the world feeling right about now? Because you don't, you should)

Anyway, there I was ambling amiably towards the bank. I found that I would require an envelope to deposit the cheque in this machine (unlike the one in KL where you just deposit the cheque as is) and grumbled cheerfully to myself about JB being ketinggalan zaman (behind the times) in terms of cheque-depositing technology. Anyway, I went to get an envelope from one of the customer service officers and here is where I encountered my first reverse.

No, it wasn't the envelope. That was as right as rain. (Haha, rain! Get it? Rain!) In fact, the customer service officer provided me one promptly. With a smile to boot. It's when I fished into my bag for the cheque to pop into said envelope. It wasn't there. In all the bustle, I kind of left it behind.

So I drove home rather sheepishly. Mom unlocked the door and asked if I'd banked it in. I told her, I left it at home. At which point, she stared at me for a while, then made her way to the steps to holler for Jackie.

Mom: "Jackie! Jackie! You know what that Jenny did? She left the cheque behind!"

Jackie: "Aiyoooooooo!"

When Ivan, returned from work, Mom obligingly went through the story again. Bellows of laughter issued from Mother, Brother and Sister.

I took a bow.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Pencil in Sunlight


The Word

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between "green thread"
and "broccoli," you find
that you have penciled "sunlight."

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also needs accomplishing.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue,

but today you get a telegram
from the heart in exile,
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,

—to any one among them
who can find the time
to sit out in the sun and listen.

-Tony Hoagland

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Tonight, Tonight



What can I say? Saturday night and all...

And Happy Birthday Justin Kahn!

Friday, 18 November 2011

It's The Stillness That Fills Me With Peace


I wanted the gold, and I sought it,
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy - I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it -
Came out with a fortune last fall, -
Yet somehow life's not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn't all.

No! There's the land. (Have you seen it?)
It's the cussedest land that I know,
From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it
To the deep, deathlike valleys below.
Some say God was tired when He made it;
Some say it's a fine land to shun;
Maybe; but there's some as would trade it
For no land on earth - and I'm one.

You come to get rich (damned good reason);
You feel like an exile at first;
You hate it like hell for a season,
And then you are worse than the worst.
It grips you like some kinds of sinning;
It twists you from foe to a friend;
It seems it's been since the beginning;
It seems it will be to the end.

I've stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow
That's plumb-full of hush to the brim;
I've watched the big, husky sun wallow
In crimson and gold, and grow dim,
Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming,
And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop;
And I've thought that I surely was dreaming,
With the peace o' the world piled on top.

The summer - no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness -
O God! how I'm stuck on it all.

The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and finds you,
The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows that are older than history,
The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
I've bade 'em good-by - but I can't.

There's a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There's a land - oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back - and I will.

They're making my money diminish;
I'm sick of the taste of champagne.
Thank God! when I'm skinned to a finish
I'll pike to the Yukon again.
I'll fight - and you bet it's no sham-fight;
It's hell! - but I've been there before;
And it's better than this by a damsite -
So me for the Yukon once more.

There's gold, and it's haunting and haunting;
It's luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn't the gold that I'm wanting
So much as just finding the gold.
It's the great, big, broad land 'way up yonder,
It's the forests where silence has lease;
It's the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It's the stillness that fills me with peace.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Never Worked And Never Will


It's been awhile since we had a children's story. And I loved the following one for all sorts of reasons. It was in The Children's Hour (do you know where they got that title from? Come on, surprise me). I read it. And read it some more. And kept reading it because there seemed some message hidden in there for me.

Now if I could only figure out what.

Once upon a time, in the time we are now living, there was an old man who made things out of wood. He had a shop on a street in a small town where all day long he carved wooden ducks and wild geese for weather vanes and hunters' decoys and, also, for people to buy and hang up in their houses like pictures - flocks of wild, black geese flying across a white wall. All his life the old man had loved to carve wood. And so that was what he did. All his life he had sat in his shop with a knife in one hand and a block of wood in the other hand, carving wild birds. He would paint them the green and black colours of wild ducks and the wonderful colours of wild geese and hang them in the windows of his shop where people passing by could see them.

People from all over would come to his shop to buy the things he made and to talk to the old man, because he was a happy old man.

But there was one thing people from all over the world could not understand. Over the woodcarver's door was a large sign which said: NEVER WORKED AND NEVER WILL.

"How," said the people from all over, "can Jim Bailey carve wood all day and paint it and sell it and then say he 'NEVER WORKED AND NEVER WILL'?"

"Why," said the people from all over, "he works all day, and he has worked all his life carving wood, and he will work tomorrow. What does he mean?"

"It means," said Jim Bailey, "that I never worked a day in my life and I never will."

"But you work from eight in the morning until eight at night, every day, carving the wild geese out of wood. What do you mean?

"If you don't know, I can't tell you," said the old man. "I never worked and I never will."

And then the old man laughed because the people were so puzzled and he laughed some more because he was a happy man. Then the people from all over the world went away with the wooden ducks and the weather vanes they had bought, shaking their heads. "We don't know what he means. He works harder than any of us, yet he says, 'I never worked a day in my life and I never will."

Then the lazy children from all around came to the old man's shop to watch him carve the wooden ducks out of blocks of wood. When they saw his sign. NEVER WORKED AND NEVER WILL, they thought, "Here is a man like us. He doesn't work either."

But when the lazy children saw him carving wild geese out of wood from eight in the morning till eight at night, they said, "Jim Bailey, you do work. You make things. And you work all day. You work harder than we do."

But the old man shook his head and said, "Go away, lazy children. You don't know what I mean, but still I say, 'I never worked a day in my life and I never will.' And you wouldn't have to work, either, if you knew my secret."

But the lazy children from all around were too lazy to guess his secret, so they went off shaking their heads. They said, "The old man is crazy, We don't know what he means. The old man is crazy, he works all day."

Then the other children from all around came to the old man and watched him carve the wild geese out of wood and paint them the wonderful wild bird colours. It made them happy to see what the old man was doing, and sometimes he let them help him paint.

But they never asked the old man what his sign meant, because they were so delighted with what he was doing that they never thought of it as work. And that was how they knew the old man's secret.

(By Margaret Wise Brown)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Miracles Occur Naturally As Expressions Of Love



Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense, everything that comes from love is a miracle.


(A Course in Miracles)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Long Quiet Highway



I love highways. I love driving alone along these highways. On and on and on....the car eating up the miles between me and where I'm going, nobody in the car, no music, just me, the road, my thoughts and the profound silence that comes from aloneness.

Aloneness I love.

Loneliness I can do without.

But one doesn't actually have to mean the other.

N'um saying?

I hear people say they hate driving alone, they hate driving at night, they hate driving long distances.

I love all three.

I love going off by myself somewhere, sometime, phone switched off, away from the world, the world I adore, the people I adore, the ones who are too much with me day and night.

And night and day.

I was born a loner.

Solitude is comfortable.

And so I drive alone, just me and the highway, getting nowhere fast because I don't like to speed.

See you when you get there.

And I'll get there when I get there.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

How Starbucks Made Me Smile


Life is full of surprises. I duck into Starbucks (like my favourite place at the Curve because the staff there are the friendliest and remember my name and also because it's attached to Borders - I mean how perfect is that?) when I run into Alex and Saiful sitting down having themselves a cuppa. So I join them and Alex asks me if I've claimed my free drink for getting the card yet. To claim this free drink, you need to register.

Hmmm...despite spending most of my time on the computer (who'd have thunk it 10 years ago?) I never register where I'm supposed to register. Anyway, he whips out his trusty iPhone and let's me register. And then in three minutes...the information is transferred to all Starbucks and Alex moseys on over to the counter to check. And comes back with my Christmas cranberry frappuccino. Yum!

And if that's not enough we get to talking and I ask them if they've read all the Starbucks books - Pour Your Heart Into It, How Starbucks Saved My Life and the new one Onwards...Alex has read the first and is halfway through the third but he hasn't read the second (maybe cos it's not one of Starbucks's official narratives, but rather a memoir by one of its staff)...so I tell him a little bit about it and whaddyaknow...he goes off and comes back with a copy of Onwards. Hardcover. You know, the one that costs about RM100 in the store?

And gives it to me for free. I am overwhelmed.

Seems like presents are lying in store, just waiting, just waiting...

I'm truly grateful.

We all talked about what they loved about working there and I told them about one of my colleagues who comes there just because the people are so friendly. It makes her feel loved.

The two boys grin. That is what they've been shooting for. Nice to get some feedback.

When I leave, we're all grinning.

Funny how Starbucks makes its way into this blog, dontcha think?

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Bonjour Happiness


One of the happiest memories of my life was going to Paris in 1996. I was coming out of a very bad relationship and there was intense drama the night before I left that involved a duck (yes, she was called Catherine) and one of four posters disengaged from a four-poster bed. Enough said.

Anyway, I went there upset as hell...and in Paris, something else took over. Somehow I could figure out the Metro, somehow, everyone was nice and not at all what I expected, somehow, the air, as Julia Ormond said in the movie Sabrina, was pink. La vie en rose.

Anyway, I loved the letter so much I copied it down. Way back when.

Dear Dad,

This is my last letter from Paris. I may even be home before you get it. Don't worry about picking me up. I'd like to surprise you. Amazing. It's gone by so quickly. Gertrude Stein said, "America is my country but Paris is my home town." I'll always feel that way about Paris. I want so much for you to know what it's meant to me.

It's turned cold out, but I don't feel cold. Across the street, someone is playing La Vie En Rose. They do it for the tourists but I'm always surprised at how it moves me. It means seeing life through rose-coloured glasses. Only in Paris, where the light is pink, could that song make sense. But I'll have it in my pocket when I get home and I'll take it with me wherever I go from now on.

Love to you Dad.

Sabrina


And I thought of it as I picked up this book I bought at the Jakarta airport (because that's what you buy at the airport, another book, and that too, one on France). When I came across this passage, I just knew I would have to include it here.

*******************************

And this brings me back to my French grandmother and how she took hours to give me a shampoo and set, her fingers working the soap through my hair, slowly rinsing it with warm water, and toweling it dry, then sitting by me, wordlessly separating the strands and slowly removing the snarls with her fingers, one by one.

The beauty and meaning of this gift was brought back to me when Jessica Lee and I visited Besancon. We stayed with Marie Joelle, a fashionable Frenchwoman who owns her own hair salon. Marie Joelle spoke no English and at that time, my French was still quite rusty. Nonetheless, we were sympathique and we communicated with simple phrases and gestures. On the final day of our visit, Jessica and I were in the salon and Marie Joelle said she wanted to shampoo my hair for me. At first, I was taken aback. I even felt that she was possibly being critical by offering this. Perhaps she thought my hair really a mess and I was in desperate need of help! But no, she just wanted to give me this gift.

And so she did. She put a smock on me and had me sit in the salon chair, I leaned my head back in the sink while she leaned over me, working the warm water and then the fragrant shampoo into my hair.

Slowly but surely, I found myself crying. Tears streamed down my cheeks and ran down my neck and into the soapy water. I could not explain this to Marie Joelle, but I knew that this was more than the gift of a shampoo. This was the gift of bringing my grandmother back to me, the experience of my childhood, recalling her accent, the softness of her voice, the perfumed smell of soap, the feeling of gentle hands on my scalp. The kindness of this simple act and generous act.

I will tell you this now: I have lived a fairly comfortable life. I have been given many gifts in my life, but the gift of this shampoo was by far one of the most important gifts I've ever received.

And to me, this is the essence of French joie de vivre. It is a gesture. An experience. It is the fleeting moment in time that can never be repeated and must be appreciated now before it flies away gone forever.

It's about being present and alive to the ordinary moment. It's about friendship and the knowledge that nothing lasts forever. It is Zen. And for the Frenchwoman, I believe, it is the heart of her happiness.

Jamie Cat Callan, Bonjour Happiness

Friday, 11 November 2011

11/11/11



Yeah, so happy 11/11/11. This is the Mandala I coloured in for the day. It was fun and it now resides on my wall. Next to my vision board. Right above my crystals. (Yeah, I'm kooky, so sue me).

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Mark, When He Sizzles



Seriously? You thought I could go a whole year without featuring my favouritest singer in Malaysia? The reason Monday nights at Backyard are a done deal?

Anyway, here he is. And if he records his own song, I'll put that up as well.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

I Could Really Use A Wish Right Now



Can we pretend that airplanes
in the night sky
are like shooting stars
I can really use
a wish right now
wish right now
wish right now

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Don We Now Our Gay Apparel



It was our farewell shopping expedition - and all in all, there was one teal beret, two shiny scarves and two pair of outlandish earrings purchased....shopping is fun, fun, fun...when you're doing it with the right person.

Miss you, Nits!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Lemon Cream Pie


I guess I shouldn't have watched Waitress. Because the actual story slipped past me, and all I noticed, were the pies and how she made them.

This seeming miracle of crust and filling. I wondered about it. Why didn't I make pies? I mean, I made cakes, I made puddings, but no pies. Maybe pies were essentially an American thing. Twin Peaks. That pie song* in the movie Michael. And of course, Waitress with the famous chocolate strawberry pie.

That's when I decided I would google a lemon pie recipe and make it. Just like that. Naive as I was, I thought it'd be a piece of cake.

Well there were recipes in abundance of course. That's what the Internet is for. So I picked one (lemon angel pie with a meringue crust) and trotted off to the stores to get supplies, the first essential supply being, a pie plate. We didn't make pies so we had nothing suitable.

Well I gathered all the ingredients (it called for heavy cream,and there was no heavy cream, so I got double cream instead) and came back home all set to begin.

Hmmm...

Did I already say I was naive?

The first reverse was the pie plate. Intent on getting exactly what the recipe asked for, I forgot that our oven was a teeny tiny one. The pie plate wouldn't fit. So I transferred the fixings for the meringue pie crust to one of Mum's corning ware containers. Cos, as she pointed out, Corning Ware is microwaveable.

The recipe called for 250 Celsius. It probably meant 250 Farenheit. Anyway, I followed the recipe and burned the crust.

Luckily, since the there was so much crust I had enough for another try. This time, I would be using the pie plate. Who cared if the oven door wouldn't close all through? Maybe I could stand there for an hour or so and force it shut.

Anyway, I plunked in the pie plate with the raw meringue and waited for it to heat. No, too much heat must be escaping for the temperature refused to go beyond tepid. In the midst of trying to make the filling, there I was, leaning up against the oven, trying to warm up the pie crust.

This went on for about half an hour and then I noticed that I had failed to switch on the oven.

Right.

I amended that, wondering what else could go wrong....and placed the glass bowl on this iron thing above the boiling water in the pan (no, we didn't have a double boiler and I had to improvise). Well, wouldn't you know, I heard a crack. And then another crack. The beautiful glass bowl was all but shattered and the filling seeped into the water underneath.

I called to Mum who was playing Spider Solitaire to tell her I had cracked her bowl. She took it philosophically. It had been a free gift for something or other, anyway. As the family baker though, that had been my favourite bowl. This pie was getting more and more expensive.

Why oh why did I have to embark on this freak?

A quick check in the oven and I noticed that the crust was actually beginning to brown, the slight aperture at the top of the oven notwithstanding. OK, I would need to make some more filling. Thank goodness we had one lemon left. (Here I thought briefly of that house in Perth with the lemon tree - all it would take, would be to step out into the garden to get an apronful of lemons...if I wore aprons, that is).

So I set to zesting and squeezing the second lemon (a small one, but hopefully it would give me what I wanted) and making some more filling. This time I was careful to place the filling in a saucepan which I placed over that iron thingy over the boiling water. OK, I would have to stir it from time to time (the recipe said constantly I said bollocks to that).

Now it was time to beat up the cream. Now the recipe didn't call for whipping cream. It should have. Or I should have used my common sense to remember that whipped cream only comes from whipping cream.

So I whipped the double cream and it turned to butter. Yeah, just like that. And it being a lemon cream pie, I would have to coat the crust with my whipped cream, and the add the filling, and top it off with cream.

Tired by now of all the foul-ups, bleeps and blunders, that's exactly what I did. Who cared if my cream was buttery. I removed the pie crust from the oven, placed some aluminium foil over the top and weighed it down with sherry glasses full of water. (We didn't have anything that could do for pie weights).

In the meantime, Mum had moved from the computer to the TV. It was time for the penultimate episode of Intan. Actually I think it's the penultimate episode cos the grandmother died, which I think signals an ending, and all those holding out against her marriage to Rado, had come around. No more loose ends, so to speak. Mum gave me a disgusted look and asked me when I had become an expert on Intan. I just gave her a superior smile and turned back to my disaster of a lemon cream (or rather butter) pie.

Once I figured it had sufficiently cooled and been weighed down, I coated it with cream, added the filling and coated it with some more cream. It looked OK but the family eyed it askance and declined a piece when I offered.

Maybe I'll stick to cakes.

* Pie
Pie
Me oh my
Nothing tastes sweet, wet, salty and dry
all at once o well it's pie
Apple!
Pumpkin!
Minced
an' wet bottom.
Come to your place everyday if you've got em'
Pie
Me o my
I love pie

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Proper Stuff of Fiction

But any deductions that we may draw from the comparison of two fictions so immeasurably far apart are futile save indeed as they flood us with a view of the infinite possibilities of the art and remind us that there is no limit to the horizon, and that nothing, no method, no experiment, even the wildest - is forbidden, but only falsity and pretence. 'The proper stuff of fiction' does not exist; everything is the proper stuff of fiction, every feeling, every thought; every quality of brain and spirit is drawn upon; no perception comes amiss.

Virginia Woolf on Modern Fiction, The Common Reader, Vol. 1

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Today She Leaves




La bonheur le plus doux est celui qu'on partage. (old French proverb)

Friday, 4 November 2011

Circles


I intended to stay an hour but I barely stayed half. I saw the boyfriend and went up to him with a smile and a hug and gave him my card.

He said, you alone?

I said, how long have you known me? Haven't I always been alone?

And he smiled.

There are circles. And circles within circles. I sit outside the circle.

I sit alone.

I made my way along the outer rim and grabbed a seat. Ordered a tepid Coke because I didn't want beer. And those were the only choices with the cover charge.

It's nice here, outdoors, feels like the beach. That's what it's supposed to feel like.

The boyfriend comes up to me after a while, his plate full of greasy food that he really shouldn't be having, not with his arteries in the condition they are. He feels sorry for me, sitting all alone, so he chats.

I see you there. Dazzling as usual. I see you there but you don't see me. And then you do. You see the both of us chatting. And you raise one hand in acknowledgment and disappear into a crowd, swallowed up by your popularity.

Within all those circles.

I sit outside.

It's not an hour yet, the time I've given myself to be here, but I cannot take it. I'm not as strong as I thought.

I hug the boyfriend, say I only came for a little while; I only came to show my support. He smiles and nods.

He understands.

I leave.

Large gasping breaths, as I make my way demurely to the car I parked far away because I didn't think I'd find a place here.

Farther and farther from the circle containing you.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Heart Asks The Pleasure First

My darling, a card lies drying on my table. It's for your boyfriend. Well, one of them. The only one I liked.

He of the broken heart. Literally, broken. So broken he will need an operation to fix it.

That's how much.

I made him a card I will put in his hand tomorrow if I see him. Along with some money. Very little. I have very little money on me at the moment.

But what is money, anyway? It's everything when you need it to pay for an operation. It's everything when without that operation, you die.

He looks at me, we acknowledge each other's presence. We're not enemies, but allies in this scourge. We both dove for cover, we tried to self-protect, but you were relentless.

Lustrous, shining, as hard as diamond, we threw ourselves against you, and we ended up...

Well you saw how we ended up.

Him nearly dead. Me still dying.

I will put this card into his hand, with the appropriate sentiment. (Did you know I've taken to painting? It makes me feel closer to you. You used to paint, once upon a time)

But how does one commiserate a fellow broken heart?

I write in the card, follow your heart.

But should he?

Look where it got him.

Look where it got me.

My darling, when the paint dries, I shall outline the words, Happy Heart Day which surround a blood red heart. The rest of it I painted swirly waves of pink and yellow. Just because.

And I shall write inside:

The heart is so easily mocked, believing that the sun can rise twice or that roses bloom because we want them to. In between freezing and melting. In between love and despair. In between fear and sex, passion is.

And I'll give it to him.

But I mean it for you.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

I Follow


I've taken to hiding behind doors and pictures to get a glimpse of her. Skin like silk and a face as limpid as plasticine.

We don't always get to choose what we fall in love with. Or whom. I meant whom.

I listen to her voice in my head and us talking, only it's not us, it's her, I'm silent catching the words as they fall from her lips, saphires to be stored away, sweet saphires I pop into my mouth, sultry saphires that taste of midnight.

Ah, but the moon is orange tonight. And unreadable. And you saw me hiding behind the picture and turned and smiled.

Why was I stalking you?

I'm sorry. I thought if I did it quietly, unobstrusively, you wouldn't mind, you wouldn't notice.

And you offer me a glass full of blood. No, wait, it's wine. Yes, wine.

Drink up, you say.

So I do.

I always do.

If you told me to dive into my wineglass I would.

That's how much.

And then you've filled my glass again. I didn't see you do it. I was not looking. You always do things when I'm not looking.

She laughs, her teeth glinting like teardrops. Oh my, but it's wonderful here, in this world that shifts and wobbles and bears me up like waves. Motion. Motion is all I have.

I don't have her.

You.

You're just a dream and I'm not talking to you here. Not really. You're too beautiful and you only see other beautiful people. The ones who look like you. The ones who could be related.

Pretty maids all in a row.

Ah me, but you're contrary.

I don't love you. I drown in you. You've taken my volition and I find myself grinning stupidly.

Oh my, but I have no volition. So I follow her dumbly, ducking behind doorways like she hasn't already seen me, accepting glasses of wine when she does, because that's all I know how to do.

I follow.

Love, love, love...

So are you to my thoughts, as food to life,
Or as sweet season'd showers are to the ground...


Love, love, love...

Being your slave, what should I do but tend
Upon the hours and times of your desire...


Love, love, love...

Don't turn around, don't smile at me, don't beckon and please, please, please...

Please let me go.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Wasted Away Again in Margaritaville

It's been awhile since I got smashed, since I dove from a skylight into a puddle, since, since...I forgot what I was about to say.

This is pleasant, this softening of colours, the familiar smells, sweet and noxious, the pain that reaches into my marrow and slams me to the floor.

Do I weep?

Do I vomit?

Decisions, decisions...

There's something vaguely cleansing about the whole thing. Like a benediction. I look out of my little corner and smile sweetly at the blurred, indistinct figures all around.

Ah, someone is talking to me, but I can't hear over the noise (music?) and my ears are already blocked from the absinthe.

I want to lean back, but that wouldn't be a good idea. I might fall and there would be no one to catch me. Because I'm here alone. As always. Alone. I don't mind. You get used to it after awhile.

And maybe I should take a walk outside because, because, because, I could keep the rats company and wave at strangers and sing to myself....

Wasted again in Margaritaville
Searching for my last shaker of salt
Some people claim that there's a woman to blame
But I know, it's my own damn fault.