Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hipster Dude

The thirty-something man wore those mid-60s glasses that only looked cool when Malcolm X wore them,a too-tight thriftshop orange knit shirt,a brown soul patch on his chin,and a bored expression.

I sat a across from him at a writing workshop,where people are supposed to participate and say what they like about the writing others share. Although there was ample opportunity,he said nothing,didn't even smile or give someone an encouraging nod. Maybe he was so used to being ironic and sarcastic that the idea of providing positive feedback was alien to him. Maybe he was too busy thinking about zombie vampires--he mentioned vampires twice when he read aloud--to tune into regular people.

I thought about what he'd look like if it really were the mid-60s. If he were a company man,he'd be clean shaven and neatly groomed,wearing a dark suit and white shirt like all the other middle-class,middle-management men with whom he worked. No doubt he'd have a pocket protector and a white handkerchief. He'd shine his black shoes regularly. He'd be mildly polite but condescending to the secretaries in his office,even though they were the ones who did most of the work. He'd come home to his wife,2 children,a dog,the evening paper, and a martini with a green olive.

If he were a beatnik,he'd have a goatee,and perhaps a black turtleneck and black pants. He wouldn't be bland like Company Man; he'd have an opinion on everything from West Side Story to Dr.Strangelove,from Under Milk wood to On the Road. Beatnik Cat would be ready to discuss Ginsberg or Rimbaud or Sartre,would gladly attend a Brecht play,and could tell you what Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement were up to. His circle of friends would be other non-conformist white men like himself,and maybe a woman who wore a black leoptard,admired his poetry, had a rent-controlled pad,and could play chess like a man. They'd go to jazz clubs,discuss records they read about in High Fidelity,and talk contemptuously of conformist Company Men.

So 21st Century Hipster Dude: wake up and smell the soy caramel latte. Get away from your laptop and zombie vampires. Have real conversations with people. Ask questions. Read books by Howard Zinn and Alice Walker. Listen to Democracy Now! Develop a passion for something,and maybe you'll learn something,and not be so bored with life.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

From Participant Zhyra Palma's Prompt at 2010 AWA Training

The summer I learned Jesus was Everywhere
from the well intentioned Sunday school teacher
I lay night after night
with my flannel gown
and one piece long johns
and socks
and refused to let my fingers
find my tiny nipples or run down the smooth inside
of my thighs, rub the fuzzy soft hair
growing between.

It embarrassed me that He would see me
so vulnerable,
so full of myself.

That he would see me rock on my pillow
on the palm of my hand
one finger pushed deep inside
two fingers
my silly mouth
growl from my chest when the
orgasm washed me clean
the new ocean smell spilled into the room.

How dare He sit on this bed uninvited,
spy on my girlhood,
steal something pure and right?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The more I fly, the less I get done on planes. I used to read up on current events, finish up all the mid-19th century novels floating around the living room. I'd write a card to my grandparents, then fill out all 20 postcards that I dutifully send from every adventure. Of course, I always send them from home, it's cheaper and more reliable. I used to think about my to-do list, make a grocery list, write a cover letter, stare at my resume.

But lately, I stick in my industrial orange ear plugs, pop some Benadryl and Dramamine, down a mini-bottle of Sutter Home Cabernet or two, and enjoy the blackout. No screaming kids, no yelling, no complaining, no thinking. It's no place, no time, no reason or rhyme. Not even a french mime. Just clouds and green circles of crops, and little rivers no one can even reach by jeep. I feel all that, I don't see it. In my mind is a confusing stew of celebrities coming over for a sandwich, a talking bunny, soothsayer honey bees, trying out for the high school volley ball team--whatever strange labyrinths the medications and the alcohol wish to wander.

Oddly, a 3-hour flight can seem longer than a 13-hour one to me. I can't explain that one.

When I land, I always try to track down my husband, but he's always re-booking irate people or pulling away the ones too drunk to board. Amateurs. You don't swallow any drugs or alcohol until you're ready to board. It times just right that it doesn't hit until you're pulling up into the air. Don't pull tantrums at the gate. Have dreamy sleep in the sky.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Corner Place

The called me Gil Mok ddahl. Gil Mok daughter.
My family owned Gil Mok,a restaurant in Los Angeles.
That's Korean for The Corner Place.

People come there for the house specialty: dong chi mi gook su.
It's been called "a party in your mouth."

Did my parents create that dish?
Do you like to cook?
People always ask.

No,a big woman named Yang Soon Chi is the creator.
I heard she came to Los Angeles from Korea
with a wok
a killer recipe
and a dream for a better life.

And no,I don't like to cook.
I want to be a forest ecologist.

Why you want to do that? my relatives demand.
Get accounting degree,get good job,buy house.
Marry nice Korean boy,have beautiful children.
Make parent happy,have good life.

No,I say.
No. No way.
No how.

Natasha Beck
Portland,OR
August 2009,revised May 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Richmond, VA

Myth goes there are seven doors out, only then
escape without return.
Mine of course was Churchill, sleeping with one arm
still tied to the bedpost
a draft on my face
a man at my legs,
while my true love lay alone on Grove Avenue
wondering where I'd got to.
Digging his own way out with broken spoons.
Yours, then,
was the final door- easiest door-
the needle that bruised the skin,
the bubble to blood
the rise to unbroken flight.
My fingers grip your ankle,
release the man.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Licking Her Wounds

Licking her wounds
New found freedom of bare chest
Heartbeat so close, delight
A woman without her breasts

Newfound freedom of bare chest
As a girl child, born again
A woman without her breasts
Is fully sensual, free of weight, liberated

As a girl child, born again
Without shame, openly exuberant
Fully sensual, free of weight, liberated
Memory of suckling baby, objects of infatuation

Without shame, openly exuberant
Fetish exonerated, "boobs" they are called
Memory of suckling baby, objects of infatuation
No longer a sex object, freedom

Fetish exonerated, "boobs" they are called
Heartbeat so close, delight
No longer a sex object, freedom
Licking her wounds

Boston

Swan Boats in the Public Garden,
Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall.

Taxis take sidewalks,
dart around double-parked

cars. Drivers follow the rules: horns
first, sign language second, breaks

a last resort. Cobblestone streets,
Cambridge across the Charles.

A city where the word sure is five
syllables long and Can I park your car?

doesn’t translate to the page. You must go,
experience the language, accents, attitudes,

see potholes in winter large enough
to house a family of five. North End,

South End, Italian, Irish, integrated,
segregated, Boston.