Okay, I dropped the ball. Consider it a break between the paragraphs or one of those multi-spaced gaps between phrases in some poems. I was actually super sick on an international flight home. Eleven hours, nonstop, with precious few masks that I sneezed into regularly, stealing tissues from the airplane toilet and stuffing them into my pockets before I returned to my seat. The crew took little pity on me. At one point, I did get cognac to put into my tea. So, that’s something.
I couldn’t read, my eyes were so watery and swollen. Instead, I watched one movie after another:
3000 Years of Longing (beautiful, although not well paced)
Bullet Train (2nd viewing, one of my all-time favorites)
47 Ronin (2nd viewing, a treat even on the small screen)
Last Night in Soho (eh)
Lady Bird (eh, although the comment that Sacramento was the Midwest of California resonated)
A while back, I participated in the Infernal Salon. Using prompts from CSE Cooney’s tarot deck, we wrote poetry live on Twitch for 20 minutes. The card I chose as a prompt read “Pain is the opposite of thought.” Here was the result.
Web of Splinters
The icy morning brightens Between the blinds Frost crackling on the bedroom window A watery web of splinters I crave a handful of snow to Douse the heartache That smolders in my chest As I remember how Your words cut me open Slice by slice You then dabbed your fingers In my blood And painted the words on my skin This is the last You wrote that night Our last time together My tears could never wash away Those stains Yet you were right And I returned the favor Slice by slice The Damascus steel stormy Like our blended flesh. Sometimes, I sleep with this souvenir This morning My hand aches more than my soul So I let the blade roll from my grip
Later, I’ll visit your secret grave
(Screenshot of me writing on Twitch. Yes, that’s a kitty wearing a stuffed watermelon slice as a cone of shame.)
A few years ago, I self-published a satire thriller called No Rhyme Goes Unpunished under the pen name Quentin Banks. It’s about how someone is killing the worst poets in L.A. and homicide detective Henry Cake is trying to stop them — even though nobody wants him to.
Here’s a quick outtake. Cake goes undercover as an emo poet to catch the killer at a poetry venue. Here he is delivering his first poem. Beside him is a goth girl he’s falling for.
It was dark that night
We found the dead woman
Lying on the street
With her eyes open
She had lines on her arms
And bruises on her legs
I wondered if she’d had
What her name was
But we never knew
What the heck happened
Just that someone
Probably didn’t pay
The piper on time
The pipe person
The guy who sells
Illegal stuff no one should
He gave them all a stern look, realized he’d just totally fallen out of character, and then slipped back into his fugue.
Except cool people of course
Don’t get me wrong
And this woman paid all right
Paid with her life
One less star in the sky
One less light at night
Fallen from above
Lying on the ground
He paused, wincing at the truth of what he was saying, then added:
I’ve seen too much trash.
He put the microphone back on the stand and strode off the stage as the coffee crowd went bananas. Loud “Yeeeeaahs!” soared through the cloud of noise. All Cake saw was the look on Fuchsia’s face as he approached the couch: sheer surprise widened her eyes, her mouth slightly agape. It was the look that perps sometimes had when they realized they’d been caught fair and square while they were being handcuffed.
“How’d I do?” he asked quietly.
“Did you just make that up?”
“Wow!” She planted a kiss on his cheek.
He grinned. The pink-haired girl was still looking at him. Crap! Did she recognize him? This was not good. He averted his eyes and flattened his smile until her coffee house fervor was re-ignited and she turned her attention fully to the roster at hand. They heard one poet after another — mostly bad although occasionally someone crept up to the microphone and read something that made Cake’s skin tingle. His hand moved closer to Fuchsia’s until he clasped it. Her delicate fingers clapsed back. He felt foolish worrying about whether or not a woman who’d tied him up and had sex with him twice liked him but he’d never met anyone like her before. Most women he’d dated were a bit passive, wanting an alpha male, which Cake wasn’t. Fuchsia’s general forthrightness turned him on.
I don’t know if the Vogon Poetry Generator is still around, but it once produced this bit of hilarity. Share and enjoy!
The Stocking of Hate
I’ll entice you till the fuse Is grappled and perpetuated so as to hope And the cold rocks go liking Like the walnuts and the conspiracy.
The toes shall fly like sonnets, For in my prongs I surrender to The “STOCKING of hate”, And the beautiful idiom of the solid.
Could but I do, within me my lust and body; To such a mammalian delight ’twould jostle me.
And because I am hard, and die and MIX snow, You express, you see me so there can be no coffee, And it is too hot to LOVE a singer: my rust and opportunity — That does groan and leads the reason of thy sock.
And all who dreamed bedding should embarrass them there, And all should fail, ahoy! Ugh! His delightful liquids, his intoxicating a river!
Generated using the iPhone Vogon Poetry Constructor – http://bit.ly/VogonPoems
He has carved a relief in the fragrant balsa of my heart with nothing more than his physical beauty and sexual intensity. Despite his scales, claws, and brimstone, the behemoth who hardly knows I’ve been pierced by his flagging tail captures my imagination and seizes my sensitivity. Unlovable and unthinkable, he slips like eels under the boat hull and jams my rudder. I should give him his sweet bread to lick from his palms and with my Hindi basket turn to the pleading hands of other wedding guests. Ignore the insatiable flame that consumes the blood between my thighs. Die every night to the memory of his bare skin gorging that flame like kerosene. Dionysus closes his palm over my Venus mound as eyes like pale sapphires flare into mine from behind sandy strands. Swear on my milky body. Count me dead. I need his skin like mine own. If I stole it, the Beast of Revelation would turn a sickly amber eye towards me and crush my skull with a splintered hoof stained with saintly blood.
And I not even remembered in the jeweled windows of his temple…
I will wander the dark tunnels of forgetfulness until my feet are numb from the icy puddles scattered as mirror shards under the moonlight.
Many people have asked me about the inspiration for this poem. All I can say is that you’ll find out next year upon publication of my memoir, The Good Girl, from Running Wild Press.
Here I am on Imbolc craving 10 grams of God and a fingernail full of synchronicity. Where are all the dirty moments of knowing real divinity? God wrapped in foil and handed off like a cracker? It’s the diminishing dosages that really get me. I make my connection each night in dreamscape only to find God’s a jackal, a roly-poly pervert who leads you down dark alleyways so he can get you high behind the dumpster and fuck you in the ass… I know, it’s crass but I’m addicted to miracles and I need a fix fast. So tie me up and heat another teaspoon of that divinity dust, my angel, pat my vein, and with a prayerful prick help me forget.
There is so much in life that I’ve come to regret Yet old Mr. Mem’ry won’t let me forget.
That five cents I stole from my mother’s black purse; And the lie that I told that made it all worse. The bleach that I poured in my grandma’s fish tank; And the woman I tripped up that day at the bank. The night that I swapped my father’s heart pills For the ones in the cupboard that cured paltry ills. Not to mention the holes cut in everyone’s socks; The times that I changed all the family clocks. The anonymous note that I sent to Miss Gluvder To make the plain thing think that somebody loved her.
I remember the Monday I cut the school’s power, And poisoned our neighbor’s red prize-winning flower. I’d stolen my uncle’s big shiny revolver, And used mother’s perfume as car paint dissolver. Soon after I’d pushed that dim boy down the stairs Whose sticky warm blood wet all his head’s hairs…
And then as I grew my regrets multiplied When I met a nice man and became his shy bride. We moved to a two-story house down the street And gave birth to wee waves of regrets oh so sweet: Becky, Scottie, Lina, Norman, John, Eve And Pete.
I regretted it more when I ran from it all And rented a room in a dusty old hall, Taking up drink and dyeing my hair Leading the men to my taffeta lair. The dresses, Caresses And late night champagne, Were lovely at first, then drove me insane. I needed more intrigue, a man who knew life A fellow who knew what to do with a knife.
I regretted the day that I met him at last And regretted his murder to cover my past. I then had to flee to another great city And with a fake name, I joined a committee. I regret that I tried to adopt a routine When really I shouldn’t have ever been seen. Of course, I regret being caught by the law I never denied that my plan had a flaw…
But my greatest regret — which some call my glory — Was letting that fat man hear my life’s story.
It’s that time of year when the U.S. recognizes poetry and poets. I’ll try to post a poem every day this month. Most of them are reprints of poems from my Bram Stoker Award(r)-nominated poetry collection At Louche Ends, Poetry for the Decadent, the Damned, and the Absinthe-minded (the featured image in this post is from the cover by Katelan Foisy). Others are from my first collection, Biting Midnight: A Feast of Darksome Verse. But a few will be new. Since T.S. Eliot named April the cruelest month in his famous poem “The Wasteland,” that’s where we’ll start. With cruelty.
Without further ado, one of my first poems.
Pain is God’s Love
Pain is God’s love he said legs folded lotus on the bed of imported pillows as he spoke to us his spiritual students Pain is God’s love I said as the needle slipped into my wrist into the nerve and I called out his name the license plate of his Mercedes and the colors of his silk paintings in the third-floor hallway he responded by telling me I was too self-absorbed…
God-absorbed and nag champa blind my mind went white the nurse stroked my brow as I shuddered you’re doing very well the doctor said I smiled I have a high pain threshold I replied tears in my eyes and I remembered I have eighty dollars until the next disability check arrives. And when the doctor left the nurse and I talked about Karma and fate how nothing’s safe and she said spiritual security is your only good bet what a hard lesson that is I whispered and she cried…
Here in my bliss in my handless nothingness I say Pain is God’s love and I wish he knew how much God hated him.
The year 2022 can’t be measured with lists and Viking rituals. It simply started in the worst possible way.
I won’t go into the details, but I was in tremendous pain. I imagined the worst, and for good reason. All signs pointed down a road I’d traveled before that was scraggly and awful. As I struggled with the pain, tsunamis of anxiety and grief crashed down around me. For some reason The Unthanks’s haunting version of “Magpie” went through my head on repeat.
Devil, devil, I defy thee.
My world was falling apart in a way I knew all too well.
But then, a miracle happened. After my regular doctors failed to treat the issue, I went to a specialist. He ran some tests, and we found something. I won’t bore you with my diagnosis. However, I made a minor lifestyle change and…the pain vanished. Like that. Totally gone. All that anguish just dried up. It made sense. It really did. I just couldn’t believe how little it took. And it hasn’t been back since. So…whew?
The Good Girl
Meanwhile, I’d been looking for an agent for my memoir, The Good Girl. It became clear that it wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t a celebrity, and my topic wasn’t, well, topical in the way some are. Not the stuff of Educated or Maid that speaks to larger social issues. While my story is highly relatable, it can also be quite provocative to the average reader.
So, I decided to submit the memoir to an independent publisher that my friend Tori Eldridge had published with: Running Wild Press. I forgot about it while I hired a developmental editor for my La Maupin book, The Blade that Lies. Former senior editor at Tor, Melissa Frain rocked the book in the best way. Not being in pain meant I could focus on that work. I also immediately tried to engage agents with the revised draft, but with no success.
And that’s when it happened. Lisa Kastner at RWP contacted me. A month later, we signed a book contract for the memoir. It’s coming out in 2024, edited by Aimee Hardy.
The Good Girl is the most important story I have to tell. It’s my 緣份 yuánfèn, my destiny. I feel like my whole life has rolled up to this point.
The New New Beginnings
I know what you’re thinking. “Another genre, Maria?” Yes, ANOTHER GENRE. Hey, I tell the stories I need to tell, okay? And this genre isn’t especially new. You bums have been getting my personal essays for free. The only difference now is that, instead of posting them to Medium or personal blog, I’m now sending them out to magazine editors. It takes a while to get traction, to find the right editors and publications. It’ll happen.
I can’t wait for you guys to read them, though. There’s a reason I’ve always just put them up on my blog. Life is too short not to laugh.
We also seem to have acquired another cat. Things haven’t gone well integrating her with the other two. We’ve named her Theodosia Wigglebutt. She definitely reminds me of another little gray kitty I once owned named Ophelia that appears in my memoir…
I knew the Scorpio eclipse on October 25th was going to swing a wrecking ball into my world. I was right. On October 27, along with 5% of our staff, I was laid off. (Our UX team was hit especially hard.) My teams and I have struggled to understand why I was one of those let go when I’ve been so central to much of the work we’ve done. There’s no answer except one with dollar signs.
The market is bleak. The astrological winds have been harsh and will continue to be so through January, but by February 2023 life should be looking up. (I actually have reason to hope March 1 will bring positive changes.) I have some ideas about how to make money while I’m out of work. And people are already asking if I’m open to freelancing. But I won’t soon forget this job I love and the people I work with.
Oh, and I got COVID after not having as much as a cold in 6.5 years. BAH.
The Next Step
Speaking of work, I’ll soon be hard at it on Aimee’s edits for The Good Girl. I won’t be able to afford the publicist I’d wanted to hire, but I can educate myself enough to get started on my own book PR. It could be fun! It could be hard. I could turn homicidal. I’ll try not to, though. I’ve succeeded lo these many years to stay out of prison. It’s hard to do signings behind bars. I’ll do my best.
I’m also working on a new YA horror mystery, and depending on what happens, I might have special plans for The Blade that Lies. Whatever happens, I’m taking a sword with me into 2023. If I go down, it’ll be swinging and stabbing.