Saturday, February 25, 2017

Two more scenes from Vanessa's story

It was in Gallery 244, for European Painting and Sculpture: The Girl by the Window by the Window by Edvard MunchMama had not liked it, saying “Oh, Vivi, she looks so alone in the picture.  Let’s go see Monet with his yellows and orange haystacks”.
But I liked the colors of blues and grey and the girl…what was she seeing in the shadows, what was she feeling?
Now, as I gaze at it, I know she is me at twelve years old.  I am looking out my bedroom window in our neighborhood of Little Italy, seeing the man in the street.  He wears a dark suit and fedora and his watch and cigarette shine in the street light. I knew him then, and now, as Mr. E.  He is there to protect me from Papa’s enemies.  I didn’t understand what Papa did that makes men angry at him, but I do now.  Papa manages millions of accounts for businesses all over the world, especially in Chicago, New York, and these days, Russia.  

Back then, when I was twelve, I knew only this—Papa was downstairs as Mama lay in her bed they rolled in from the ambulance yesterday.  I could hear Papa weeping, but my tears were roped tight in my throat, my neck still bandaged. 
A few weeks before, I was in the car with Mama as it crashed into a wall, glass shattering into my neck.  They say the car brakes were not working, even though it was a new car Papa had bought for her in the late spring. Mama was driving me home from a symphony concert and she was happy; I was happy.  But all that changed with the crash.  Mama’s head slammed into the car door.  The doctors at the hospital said her brain was bleeding and they couldn’t stop it.  So she came home to die.

“Amazingly evocative, don’t you think?”
A voice startled me. I turned and saw a man with glasses, hands drawn across his back, revealing a blue and grey striped tie.  I noticed it was knotted European-style, like Papa’s with the skinny end of the tie hanging longer than the front-facing wider side.  For years, I would watch Papa make his tie before going to work, before going to Mass, and I often tie my scarves in a similar fashion.  I look at the man’s face: blue eyes, dark brown hair with reddish natural highlights, slightly tussled under a blue knit cap.  His face is still flushed from the outside cold.  It is a nice face with a smile that turns down a bit at the edges, as if he is practicing it. 
I nod, but remain silent.
“Yes.  I like this one by Munch very much,” he continues.
“Well, maybe ‘like’ is too strong a word for it.  But it’s one of my favorites in this wing.  I also like Monet,” I add, as if to bring Mama into the room.
“Sure.  Monet’s good.  But Munch goes deeper, finds a way to suggest a feeling, usually with shadows.  I get that.”
I am surprised he does.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Paterson-inspired Poems

A few Lines
Butterflies settle on her stone ear.
They flutter against her cheek.
She sits against a cool wall
in the warm spring sun.

Yellow flowers border the wall.
Wind blows, flower stems bend.
Butterflies scatter.
NOTE:  The first line (with pronoun change) is attributed to "Paterson" by William Carlos Williams.

The Movie
In the theater,
dark lights
and the rustle 
of a tissue as
tears fall.

Friends and Lovers
The story shows
people at the neighborhood bar, 
playing pool or chess.
Two lovers argue
in the dim corner.
Outside, and English bulldog
puts his paws on the sidewalk
and sleeps.

In the End
He opens the blank book
to small possibilities
written in pen.

The water falls
on the other side
of a rusty chain link fence.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Vanessa's opening page

I rewrote my first draft which was in 3rd person/omniscient with past tense to first person and past tense.  Learning, as I go, how important POV (point of view) is to the voice of my story.

The ice storm was dripping into its third day. I wasn’t content to stay inside my apartment practicing the Vivaldi flute solo or reading Tolstoy, so I wrapped three woolen scarves around my ears and scarred neck, tucked the edges under my orange fleece jacket, and declared to Sam, my well-fed cat—
“I refuse to be held a captive any longer.”  Closed spaces brought back tremors in my hands and I had seen them tremble a few minutes earlier.
Out the door and into the cold.  But not for long.  My favorite café was just around the corner and I walked into the warm setting with a smile.
“Hi, Nate.  Busy day today for you, right?”
Pressing steamed coffee into a latte, Nate nodded, his brown eyes flashing a welcome to me.
After ordering my chai latte and warmed up from the inside, I made this a quick café visit and hailed a cab as I exited.
“Where to, miss?  Somewhere warm for you, I hope,” the cabbie asked as I slid into the back seat.
He switched on the meter and turned the heat fan up to high.
“Art Institute, please.  And thanks for that extra blast. It feels good.”
Driving down the slick roads took the usual ten minute ride a bit longer, but I was cozy in the cab and finishing my latte.  I began to anticipate my usual visit to the museum.  It was a favorite place to enjoy afternoons with Mama, and, since her passing three years ago, it had become a more important “artist’s date” to keep.
Mama had shown her own watercolors at small suburban galleries, but I hadn’t inherited the visual talent.  Instead, I’d watch her paint to classical music and felt soothed by flute sonatas even as a toddler.  So, when the time came to pursue my artistic training, I left my crayons in my desk and started elementary school Saturday lessons with Mr. Petri.  He was first flutist in the Chicago Symphony and, Mama had insisted to Papa, “We want the best for our little, Vivi.”
“The best for her at this age is to listen to her Papa and not fuss when we go to Mass,” was his reply.  But Mama had scoffed at the reminder of my rebellious shortcomings and so began my twenty year journey to first chair in the Symphony.
“Here we are, safe and sound,” repeated the cabbie.  He may have announced our arrival twice, but I was caught up in my memories.
“Oh, sorry.  Here you go.”  I paid the driver and scrambled out the cab, watching my steps on the slick steps.  The paired lions had frost on their manes and ice formed on their moustached mouths.  I gently patted one of the paws—a habit I’d learned from Mama and kept through the years. 
“Thanks for guarding the beauties inside,” I whispered as I passed the regal statues.

Inside the lobby, I sighed as I shook off the scarves, unbuttoned my coat and walked over to the coat checker.  My heart fluttered a bit as I anticipated my walk through the hallways to the painting that linked me to my past.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Two "Reset" Poems

(from Writer’s Digest December prompts) 12.3.16 by acfonte

Reset Uno

Nothing is quite right today. It started with the porch light blinking in the dark—
A response to a feral cat, blustery breeze or errant footsteps?
Unsettling, my dreams were dotted with
Faces from the ashen past, names from an afternoon movie.
In the morning, my toast burned.  I put too much water in the plant pot
And water spilled to the concrete floor.
At the gym, as I bicycled in place,
My muscles trembled and heart fluttered.
Then, at the café,
My sample coffee was too sweet,
The room temperature shifted from heat to ac and back again,
My orange sweater was tight.

Finally, I laughed at the poetry prompt to “reset.”
Okay, so I have.

Can I get off that bicycle now?

Ovillejo: Reset Deux (a Spanish poetry form)

How can I stop trembling in place?
It takes less space.

I practice my balance with care,
Arms high in air.

Like a cactus of certain age,
Nature’s green sage.

She offers me another stage
Where fear is quiet and hope is high,
So I grab hold as faith flies by—
It takes less space, arms high in air, Nature’s green sage.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

All Soul's Day 2016

Note to readers:  I did post a short new poem yesterday on if you want to read that one.  Here is the one I wrote a couple of weeks ago in response to a Poets & Writers Prompt to "write a poem that joyfully honors a loved one who has passed away..."

Mom loved to bake
and so did her mother--
sugar cookies with 
cherries at the center, 
butterscotch brownies
with coconut and walnuts.

One of the bakers is buried
on a hill in northern Illinois.
The other's ashes in a
brass urn under 
rocky desert.

In due time, 
I will take a few of those ashes, 
sprinkle them on 
the hill in Illinois, 
cornfields sway in the wind
and black crows caw
at dusk.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Bagging gold for the cold days to come

Bagging gold for the cold Days to come (last line of the poem "Neighbors in October" by David Baker.

Bagging gold for the cold days to come,
I picked up the leaf just fallen from the tree.
Like browned butter, but crisp,
it folded into my hand,
curling in the afternoon sun.

A day later, it is as delicate
as tissue paper and flutters on
a red book in my hallway
as I open the front door.

It will blow away someday,
fall on the floor and
crumble into dust.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Coyote SLim Part 2

Image from

It was late July in Tucson and the rains had petered out.  All the washes were dry.  The mesquite pods were cracked and empty.  The toads had dug their holes deep beneath the hot sun.  Even so, their skins were bubblin’.

SLim was wore down to ragged fur on bones. His summer wilyness was wearing as thin as his skin. He recalled one week in May when, tethered by a rope, a two-legged critter in short pants fed him juicy strips of fried meat. Back then, SLim had snoozed in the shade and lapped cool water from a pan.  Considering his present circumstances, a roped-up life seemed better than becoming another carcass.

Trouble was SLim didn’t know how to get caught again.  Definitely didn’t know how to get himself into the same comfortable quarters.  So, what to do?  Slim sniffed the air.  Caught a two-legged whiff from the smooth path above the wash. 

It was dusk with stars just beginning to poke out of the sky.  SLim had enough daylight to saunter up the gravel and get himself caught.  So up he went.  Tail draggin’ and brushin’ up on a small dust cloud. 

“Look, mama,” a tiny voice chirped.  “A doggie.”

“Sweetie, that’s not a doggie.  It’s a wild coyote.  He looks tired, doesn’t he?”

SLim liked the sound of the voices.  They tinkled with possibility.  He lowered his head and began to whimper.  Figured he’d benefit by taking it a notch higher and pretended to limp on his hind legs.

“Oh, mommy.  He’s hurt.”

“He might be.  Or he might be sick. We better steer clear and head back to the car.”

They turned away from SLim.  He whimpered again.  More loudly, sensing defeat at sunset.

Just then, a cowbird plopped itself in front of SLim, flapping its charcoal wings.

“Hey, SLim.  What are you up to?”

SLim sighed.  He knew Charlie well—a pal from better days when they shared occasional chats on a distant cow ranch. 

“Tryin’ to survive.  But it ain’t workin’ out too well today.”

“Oh….  I just found a spot in town where a few chickens are runnin’ around and there’s no wall.  Just a wire fence that wobbles in the wind.  Want to trail me for a quick dinner?”

Since things weren’t working out has SLim hoped, Charlie’s offer sounded sensible.  He nodded, trotting after Charlie who flew low until they got to the designated backyard.  Sure enough, quite a few chickens were peckin’ stubs of grass in a yard with a droopy fence.  SLim scrunched under the wire and pushed a small wedge into the loose dirt so he could break through.  After a small tussle, he caught a hen and finished her off.  The ruckus drew attention from an unexpected well-fed and muscled guard dog on the other side of the yard who came running with growls and grunts.  SLim scrambled under the fence with the guard dog coming in close, nipping SLim's tail.  SLim yelped as dust flew.

Charlie saw the whole thing and cheered for SLim’s escape.

“Good job, SLim.  You can still kick up a fuss and come out okay of the other end.”

Panting and licking his sore tail, SLim wasn’t so sure.

“This isn’t the life I want anymore, Charlie.  I’m looking to find me the two-legged critter in short pants who treated me pretty good for a week.”

“Oh, I know him,” Charlie crowed.  “If you want, I can get you to his place in a jiffy.”

“Well, let’s go then.  I need to be tended to for awhile.”

So, Charlie flew and SLim, followed, loping over rusty railroad tracks to find George--the boy who made SLim a pet for a week.