Cutting Corners

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My latest piece of flash prose published in Philly-based Cleaver Magazine. Fantastic experience working with the editor Karen Rile. And what an honor to appear alongside such skilled writers!

For a butter knife it was sharp. My grandmother must have had it for a long time. Its blade was truncated by a fracture, rust collecting at the end of its one-inch length, at the site of the break. I was never sure if she kept it because of some sentimental attachment or a deep-seated sense of Soviet scarcity made more acute by the still fresh memories of the deprivations of the Great War, which was only two decades behind her. I was attached to my distorted reflection looking back at me from its heavy silver handle. [Read more]

After

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Ice

I remember your aftershave wafting after
You left my room
The ambivalence of a cheek flirting with
Its own rough edges
You wrestled a blizzard
— Visibility zero, temperature -40 —
The aftertaste of frozen tears

That afternoon I was the aftermath
Lost in the afterthought of shattered glass

A letter to Bernie

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Oh, Bernie! I loved you, man! You were the guy in the Senate who stood by his principles, making the tea party assholes look like the assholes they are. You have always been concerned about the people, not the ones with endless zeros in their bank accounts, but the ones with zero stuff in the world, those left behind, those forgotten and trampled by the capitalist goliath. You were the one with principles, the one pushing the Democrats to the right… ahem, forgive me, the correct side of most issues. I didn’t always agree with you, but I sure liked your intensity and conviction.

So when you declared your candidacy, I was excited. Here I was, feeling the abundance of competence in both my major candidates, pride in their integrity and experience. Before my state primary, I struggled and searched my soul to choose between you and Hillary. Now, a year later, I hardly recognize you, Bernie, even though you and I are alike, and maybe even because of it.

No, I am not a man, I am not 74 and I am not from Brooklyn. But there is something about you that is familiar, that reminds me of my friends and family from this country and the old. The way you think, the way you debate, the way you are not afraid to be in the minority. But there is something else in you that reminds me of me. You and I, we are not team players. And for me, for the path I have chosen in life, that’s OK. For you? It is fraught. Politics is about coalitions. Successful politics is about banding together to accomplish your vision. You have not.

There is another way in which you remind me of me. When I practiced medicine, it was the diagnosis that intrigued me. I became an ICU doctor precisely because of the mysteries that I had to solve rapidly, while wrangling the fire hose of historical, clinical and laboratory data. Once I diagnosed, however (and, boy, you and I, we are both good at that), I lost all interest in treatment (well, not enough to walk away, you understand, but enough to find the subsequent steps tedious). I guess it’s a good thing I left practice.

And I have to say, that your lack of interest in the details of effecting your dreams scares me. If not you, who? And what scares me even more is that, in all the years you have been proposing this stuff, and over the past year of your campaign, you have not whittled away at the vagueness, have not articulated the path, have not given me something tangible to hold on to. And the fact that you have exactly zero foreign policy experience concerns me even more.

There are many think pieces these days about why people are stepping away from you, Bernie. It’s your flip-flops on whether or not you will run a smear campaign, your inconsistent views on superdelegates, your blind, data-free insistence that you are the more electable candidate against Trump. While I don’t like any of it, I do understand. I think it was Frank Underwood in “House of Cards” who said something happens to you when you get close to the White House door. You have felt that closeness, haven’t you? It has changed you — who would expect anything else?

And this is exactly what makes you human, and fallible, and impure. Yes, impure. And this should endear you more, but instead I am repelled. I am repelled precisely because you cannot see it, cannot admit your flaws, cannot fess up to the obvious.

Hillary is not a saint. We have all watched her for the last 35 years like a bug under the microscope. She makes stupid gaffes, changes her mind, refuses to respond to what she deems unfair and unequal intrusion. She also listens, she engages, she thinks. And yes, she compromises.

You don’t. You write off compromise as impure. You have no tolerance for divergent opinions. Even though I am not 74, I am too old for that.

Bernie, I am not going to pretend that I voted for you in the primary and that now you have lost me. I didn’t, but you did have me. I appreciated you, and made an informed choice to vote for your opponent. And I am bitterly disappointed that the last few months have have given me so much justification in my choice. The drag is that when I voted for Hillary in the primary it was not a vote against you. Now, after months of smears, innuendo and gamesmanship, I am turning away from your hypocrisy.

But here is the deal, Bernie. If by some miracle of numbers you win the nomination, I will be your ardent supporter. And no, there will be no cognitive dissonance for me, since the alternative is unthinkable to anyone with two neurons to rub together, even though you are not my ideal candidate. I am not “Hillary or bust” not because I am ambivalent about her, but because I am old enough to know that you don’t get everything you want every time, and that petulance, especially in this election year, could be deadly. I will go all out for you.

I haven’t given up on you, Bernie. I still hope that you are the man with the values and ideals that you espoused and that drew me and so many others to you. And that even if you don’t win the nomination, you can overcome your habitual discomfort with teams and become a member of Hillary’s team, our team, to make our country the best that it can be.

Sincerely,
Your once (and future?) supporter

Inside out

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Inside and out collide, lock horns, battle for opening of doors, windows, for blending, mixing, homogenizing. You are outside, always, engulfing, tentative, unsure. What is this fortress you are not of, know nothing of? If you waft in, what will you lose?

The fortress looks out defensively. I have a moat, a portcullis, turrets. They are mine, don’t breach. Your air is your air, and my air is my air. I warm mine with wood. What warms yours? Stay out.

You are inside the outside, and inside the inside, and that makes you outside the inside and outside the outside. You cannot tell the difference, except for the floors, though they are similar enough. The smell of fire is close, the inside oozing out.

Panic

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Your daughter is walking down the stairs, her footsteps racing, rhythmic, rapid. What if she trips, falls, tumbles? What if she breaks bones, ruptures her spleen, shears the tender capillaries worming through her cerebral membranes?

You stand on the seventh floor balcony in South Beach. Your heart pounds. What if some demented impulse to jump overtakes you and you can’t stop it? What if the railing cracks when you lean? What if the whole balcony crumbles to the street below?

You lie in your hotel room in Midtown and listen as sirens slash the night. What if someone breaks into your room? What if you get hit by a car while crossing 7th Avenue? What if someone abducts your child while you are not looking?

Can you smell fear? It smells like mud, like wet dog, like Sasquatch being chased by errant hunters. It sticks in your throat and it gives you away. It advertises your availability — to be snatched, devoured, deleted.

What if your daughter doesn’t pay attention? What if she isn’t careful? Will she vanish, disappear without a trace, mutate into what the world expects from a woman?

Red on white

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There’s white on white and black on white
And no relief from it in sight
And black on black and red on white
And feathers floating in the night

And feathers floating in the night
They hover softly in mid-flight
In swirling motion they delight
The air swallowing the light

The air swallowing the light
I wish I may I wish I might
The bloody memory of night
A distant cry of distant fight

A distant cry of distant fight
Why here it is, in red, on white
I see it clearly as I write
This white on white and black on white

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