Exercise about Place–100 words

16 03 2008

Prompt: “We are supposed to _want_ to see the great places of the world. But what if, in fact, we would much, much rather get home and for once get on top and _stay_ on top of the dandelion situation in the lawn?… Describe some place where great or infamous history was made that means very, very little to you”
–Carol Bly, Beyond the Writer’s Workshop: New Ways to Write Creative Nonfiction, p284

The Tower of London, where all those queens lost their heads, where all those traitors were thrown, meant nothing to me, just more lines, people, waiting. Silly men in silly costumes. Then my brother enumerated for me all the castle crooks who threw people to the rats, the stocks, the rope , and all the crooks who crossed the Irish Sea to kill and pillage and plunder there. By the time I donned my school uniform with its silk crest that next week, I was determined to do my bit of resisting. After all, these girls represented the aristocracy. Prince Charles was a student at the university. And so I stomped loudly up the Prefects’ staircase, and got caught in the act, pulled along by my collar. No stocks for me, but no lunch, either.

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Smoke (100 words)

12 03 2008

march ice

I have gauzy memories of my very young mother smoking out on our back patio, with college friends, drinking wine, waxing on, I imagine, about literature and philosophy and love as colored candles dripped like hippie hair down the sides of a cheap chianti bottle. Twenty four with three children. College-after-kids. As we grew to adolescence, she gave up those languid evenings, and cigarettes bit by bit, pretending to quit so we wouldn’t start, backing into her bathroom finally to throw open the small, clouded window and perch on the windowsill, leaning out into the pale winter sky, sighing smoke.





Pitcher

9 03 2008

That year my mother collected awkward things as we crisscrossed Europe, kids in the back, father lodged at the wheel next to her and her romantic notions. From Amsterdam she lugged a wrought-iron candlebra, stuffed into the trunk in case my father, unnerved by German or Italian drivers, braked without warning. In Normandy it was cheese so appalling that we forced her to tie it to the side mirror to flap safely outside. In Siena it was a yellow pottery ewer for wine or flowers, a treasure she swaddled, cushioned from mishap by the soft stuff of a family adventure.





Public Bus (100 words)

3 03 2008

Growing up, I envied country kids, faces to the window, exploring the mysteries of school-bus culture. The year we lived in England, my brother and I took the bus to the city center; from there I walked through Cambridge’s ancient streets to my girls’ school. Claiming the front seat atop the double-decker, my brother banned me from the action. Or so he thought, for before me unfolded the real show starring conductors playing marvelous ticket machines strapped to their uniformed chests, spewing the language in hard-edged accents, hopping off and back onto the open landing as nimble as circus acrobats.





Marmalade (100 Words)

1 03 2008

Grapefruit, kumquat, orange, calamondin, lemon: I could mark my life in marmalades– my mother’s thick-cut magic mixed at the stove from fat Mamade cans; sticky ginger and lemon and coarse-cut varieties from the English year, their thick scents rolling in from the nearby Chivers factory as we headed to school; mild marmalade toasts my French mother served with tea Friday afternoons in some sad pantomime of aristocracy; undecipherable varieties more chutney than marmalade spread across my Asian and South American travels; and now the blood-orange jars that fill my cupboard, morning toast taking my tongue, my nose into bittersweet memory.





Stethoscopes (100 words Exercise)

29 02 2008

I’m okay about stethoscopes. Really. Our childhood doctor arrived with his breadbox of a black leather bag, fishing out concoctions at our bedsides: cherries gone strange or bubblegum fizz. Always, around his neck his stethoscope necklace. He was a kind but serious man. Tall. Old.

Thirty years later, when I’d rush one young daughter or the other to Doc Pete for a broken wrist or earache, he, wily magician, would nod a pursed “HmmMMMmmmm….” as he touched stethoscope to elbow, to nose, to pinkie toe. No matter how bad the pain, the sick one would giggle, fear effaced, healing begun.





Fire

14 02 2008

My sweet daughters, both of fiery spirit

Like their mother, love to argue for argument’s sake.

They fly to flame. No, rather, they put bellows to cinder.

They can’t help themselves. In some places, it is unseemly.

Surprising.

Cruel even.

In our home it is high art.

We have, after all, been brought up to spar

as though lighting the warming evening fire–

All of us on our Irish side

On the historian’s side–

Valuing the slow burn of a perfectly

Wrought argument

As it throws sparks

Across the table at hapless

Guest, sibling or

parent

Igniting idea, conviction,

passion.