Today we studied the ruins.
Your eyelashes were already a legend among the Byzantines.
Once, I believed you could read the stars,
perhaps even read your own mind.
Yet you can’t feel your own grave
rushing at you with its mouth open,
the branches of that place soaked in a green light,
the clenched teeth of the moon.
To you, I was always “Bob’s bastard,”
A reminder that someone touched her before you.
My body remembers your grease-stained, gnarled fists
smashing my pink flesh to bone.
My body remembers your steel-toed shoes
ploughing into my belly and back.
Sometimes mom begged you to stop.
Sometimes she sobbed, immobile.
Sometimes she looked away.
Though you’ve been dead for years,
You live here now.
Imprisoned in the body of the girl you despised.
Years ago—it was many lives ago—I worked nights in Manhattan. Some people call that grave shifting or paying dues. Others call it chasing the light.
To stay awake I used to buy coffee at Smilers, the deli on 7th Ave in the Village. Usually around 3 am.
Every night on a crate in front of Smilers sat an old black man. White hair, blind. I think he was mildly autistic. He rocked back and forth endlessly. Like Ray Charles caught in the groove. Next to the crate was a boom box, and a simple handwritten sign: Please. Continue reading
Day one of married life shed no light at all on married life. Reality check: we were not going to wake each morning and leave for Italy.
The first day after our wedding, I still felt single, as if exhausted from a big-night bar crawl instead of my own wedding reception. That morning, my biggest concern was what to wear on the plane. I had planned to wear a black, denim, maxi dress, but before I left the office two days before my wedding, as I was hugging everyone and waving bye and collecting wishes and congratulations, my Creative Director’s last words to me threw a wrench in my line-up. She said, “Don’t wear black on your honeymoon.”
That last day in the office, I was in a hurry to catch my commuter bus and get out of Manhattan and home to the hundred or so wedding details I had to address, so I didn’t take the time to ask why. I fretted over my affinity for wearing black all the way from midtown’s Port Authority, locally known as Port Atrocity, to New Jersey. While waiting for my bus, I re-evaluated my fashion identity. Everything I own is black. Open my closet, and it’s like stepping into a cave. There’s security in black and mystery, sophistication, elegance, neutrality, and a metropolitan-ness, and aren’t I all of those things? And I work in Manhattan, where everyone wears black so that the streets seem to be crowded with shadow people. What’s wrong with black? I looked at the several hundred people shuffling and running by me on the bus platform. Ninety percent of them were wearing black. The other ten percent, wearing pastels, were obviously tourists. Continue reading
Review by Tess Tabak
Everyone has heard about the famous Wright brothers, who gave humanity the gift of flight. But who was behind the brothers, helping them face the public and knitting them zigzag socks?
Patty Dann’s The Wright Sister explores the oft-forgotten Katharine Wright, Wilbur and Orville’s sister. This is based on a true story: Orville Wright was apparently a very particular man, and although he and his sister were very close, he immediately stopped speaking to her after she was married. The book combines Katharine’s “marriage diary” with a series of letter she writes to Orville after he stopped speaking to her. (Wilbur had already passed away by this point.)
Aside from Orv and Katharine’s very real rift, much of the rest of the book comes from Dann’s imagination. She did some light research, but didn’t let details stop her rich fictitious version of Katharine’s life. Katharine Wright is an interesting character, a strong feminist with as strong a technical knowledge of airplanes as her brothers had. In Dann’s hands, she is very outspoken and honest in the pages of her own diary, admitting her lust for her husband and newly discovered pleasure (she married for the first time in her fifties). There are some tongue in cheek nods to the true author’s actual knowledge of historical events (in 1928 she writes Orville that she hopes he’s not investing money in the stock market, for example) but for the most part it feels fairly true to the time period in which it was set.
Fans of the Kitty Norville series will find a comforting haven in Carrie Vaughn’s latest short story collection, Kitty’s Mix-Tape. Vaughn is a master at making the monstrous familiar, and even wryly funny. This is the 16th installment of the Kitty series, which began with Kitty and the Midnight Hour. What started as a fairly straightforward story about a plucky young werewolf named Kitty (get it?), has blossomed into a whole universe of characters, many of whom are revisited in this anthology. Vaughn also throws in some new settings for werewolf situations, such as a look into what a Pride and Prejudice-era werewolf might have looked like struggling to fit into society, as well as a few stories totally unrelated to the Kitty universe, like one about a half-selkie who visits Ireland in search of his roots.
Vaughn’s writing is for the most part contemplative rather than active – most of the stories in this collection end in conversation, not confrontation – but she’s a skilled writer and the real meat of each story is in the care she puts into character development, such as a simple blackjack dealer who can’t unsee what she sees when she notices a cheating gambler who’s winning without any of the usual tells, or in fact any visible tells at all. She follows the cheater and traces the deception back to its source – with the aid of magician Odysseus Grant, a supporting character from the Kitty series.
Most of the stories in the collection can be read as standalones even though the majority do stem from Kitty’s world. However, if you haven’t read the rest of the books yet, do yourself a favor and start with Kitty and the Midnight Hour. The 16-volume collection contains equal measures of page-turning action and relatively light fluff, making it a perfect pandemic binge read. One or two of the later books are kind of filler but it’s an overall satisfying series (it doesn’t go off the rails quite in the way that, for example, the Anita Blake series does). The collection provides some spoilers for the rest of the series, and why deny yourself the pleasure of starting at the beginning?
Kitty’s Mix-Tape was published October 2020. The Furious Gazelle received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Often at night,
when the sky seems as close as it does now,
and the trees tense up
as if knowing the clouds will soon break,
and the light’s an eerie shade of gray,
Who breaks their arm planting bulbs? Well, technically, I was retrieving bulbs, from a box on the other side of the low-rise-industrial-wire fence they put up around small urban gardens at street level to keep out the dogs that don’t keep out the dogs. Why build a fence just high enough for me to trip over? This question begets an annoying answer. The kind of answer that targets you, relentless as the sunrise. Most wouldn’t trip over it. The fact that I did is a visceral confirmation of aging, a steady and sure march to death, bringing with it the accidents of youth.
The virus is also on the march and the Governor has closed my pool eliminating the aquatic option to recovering my range of motion. So, here I am—albeit four staggeringly painful and miraculous-in-the-fact-my-bone-healed-at-my-age months later—in physical therapy, a risk of a different kind.
Kim, my physical therapist, announced on Tuesday I should have worn a mask. They had sent an email. One I deleted before reading as I do most irritatingly-perky missives that fill up my inbox with random products, services or advice on healthy choices I thought I wanted to make. In the wake of the virus, I’ve decided I’m healthy enough for someone who may die soon and has long planned on dying at year seventy-five. Which is the perfect age to do so, and I could tell you why but I won’t digress.
On Thursday, I arrive orange bandana-bound. I insert my disinfected credit card for the co-pay. I Purell my hands and look right. A talkative young man, without a mask, seated on the banquette adjoining the front counter, his body twisted toward the receptionist, is chattering non-stop. His way-too-low pant waist is way-too-revealing. He twists again, his white fleshy cheeks pressing against the rust vinyl cushion in cringe worthy fashion. This can’t be the hygienic standard to which they aim.
The machine buzzes. I extract my card and whisper. “He needs to pull up his pants.” Continue reading