Cher Bibler, Fiction, Uncategorized

The Time Before

by Cher Bibler

 

I.
Tonight there is no light but the glow from around the streetlights. I am standing here waiting for you, but you don’t know it so you won’t come. I stand alone and look over the park past the swingset and the slide, into the darkness over the baseball field. This is such a sweet slow time when I’m alone and there’s no one to misunderstand me.

A car goes by slowly but I pretend not to see it. The air looks thick and foggy in front of its headlights. I hold in my breath until the echo of its sound dissolves and I’m alone again.

If I’d told you to meet me, you would have, but I’m still not sure about you. I pretend there is some magical way you will sense that I’m here and come to me, because this is the way I want you: I have a dream figure of you sketched out, how I’d want you to be if you knew that I wanted you, if you were sure of me. I know what reactions I’d want, things I’d want you to say and feel.

In a way this time is better than the real thing will be, this dream time; or so I tell myself. I am holding myself back, keeping this suspense, watching you.

II.

I am sitting here with you. We’re talking about books. We’ve never read the same ones but we’re sure we’d both like them, if we had. I’m trying to tell you why.

I hold myself just far enough away from you so we don’t touch. I’m waiting for this to overwhelm you. When I first met you I never expected to feel this way about you. You were just an ordinary person; I had no warning.

I’m sitting crosslegged hugging my legs. I lay my head on my knees and look down at the carpet. You’re talking about your sister but I’m not listening anymore. Our conversations lately have drifted aimlessly.
I’m amazed at this thing that’s grown here between us. I analyze its beginnings, as far as I can dissect them. I can’t find the seed where it began, but I can see how it gathered momentum and how I witlessly encouraged it along.

III.

I’m thinking about my last lover, and how he merged into the dream I had of him until I couldn’t tell them apart. I’ve had plenty of time to think about the mistakes I made with him and I keep them at hand for reference so I don’t make them again with you.

It’s not fair, I guess, to compare future lovers with past lovers, to make them compete with old ghosts grown mellow with memory, but at each step I’m reminded of the last time I felt this way, and sometimes your eyes merge with his eyes and I think there is only one man out there who keeps coming back to me in different disguises.

My old lover never really liked competing with my fantasy of him.

IV.

I have practiced conversations we will have someday; I’ve told your dream counterpart all the secrets about myself. He took it well. He was very understanding.

V.

I sit here by you, not touching but close enough I can feel your body heat. I’m looking at your hands, studying the texture of your skin wondering how it would feel. It looks very soft and I wonder why that attracts me (stereotype—men are supposed to have strong hands).

I imagine how you would react right now to me touching you, but I don’t touch you. I sit wrapped in this thought.

 

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Cher Bibler is the author of About Irene, a novel told from the viewpoint of a collectible french fashion doll about her friends, her owners, and the things that happen around her. She has had poetry and fiction published in magazines such as The Evergreen Review, Amanda Blue and The Firelands Review. She sings in a rock band, edits an incredible online literary publication, and has perfected the art of making potato pizza. She currently resides in Merida, Mexico.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Scott19

photo by Skot Horn

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Poetry

panic switch and other poems

by Cher Bibler

 

panic switch

 

I am quite intense, my dear,

it’s easy to be afraid. let me

walk you through the parameters, let

me introduce you to the fear. here is a

safe room where you can take

refuge; it’s quite legal,

I have provided it for you.

look, there is an escape door out

the back. you will enter the

street from there so make sure

it’s what you want.

you won’t be invited back,

I don’t take rejection well. you will have

to step out into the world with

a smile on your face because that

is what the world expects and we

like to provide what the

world wants, don’t we? we don’t

like to stand out, that is why my space is

far removed, protected.

here is the switch you can turn

if it gets to be too much, if you

want to slow it down. it will

alert me, it will send

sedatives pulsing through my veins.

it will give you time to think, you

can reconsider. no other

relationship offers a panic

switch; it is unique with me.

one of the perks, one of the

reasons you can feel safe.

I will take your heart, your

soul, and check them behind the

desk. don’t worry I’ll keep them

safe. I will take your hesitation,

your doubt, and pack them away. only you

can decide if you want them back.

only you can decide how far

to go.

 

 

 

 

my line of work

 

I drag it around like the

mother of a marriageable daughter

shoving her in the faces of

eligible men

dressing her up like a gift wrapped package

I pull my poems around in a

cage like circus animals on display

in sad small towns where men sit

in the square with beer drunk by noon

I whore my words out on

street corners hair teased faces thick with

paint tarted up to look

like they’re a big deal

the lure the only thing that matters

the deed unimportant

I dip each word in chocolate to

disguise the bitterness

drown each stanza in gin to

make it slide down faster

and I am quite successful in my

line of work

 

 

 

working out a solo

 

last night at practice listening

to him work out a solo playing

the rhythm part over and over as

he tried it one way and then

another as it got better and better

only to fall apart and start over

and over I drifted away and

thought of other things the

rain in the afternoon and standing in the

car garage talking shelter with

the guys who always wave

at me when I go past they stood in

the doorway and watched the rain

I did too

the streets were flooded and I

waded through, the water warm

from the hot pavement

over and over sometimes my mind

wanders so far I screw up my

simple 4 chords but all of a

sudden the solo came together and I

was there again and when he finished I had

to say Oh I like that

 

 

 

 

painted truth

 

I have painted truth between these words

I was unable to keep totally silent and yet

I can’t be totally honest either

I hide behind lies and fiction

but I have cleverly planted truth

I am hoping you’ll see it and know that

you’ll be able to understand because

I have no other way to reach you

I have planted truth between the rows

like covert marijuana they will

reap a grim harvest if consumed

their smoke will rise in a slow line

to the sky

 

 

 

 

 

a bowl of memories

 

I have a bowl of memories on

the coffee table. They glow

in many hues. Some are too dark to

look at for very long. Some

bite when you touch them.

Some of them will stain your fingers.

Others are happier, of course,

many of them are happy but

they are overshadowed by

the darker ones. When people look

into the bowl those are all

they see.

 

 

 

 

this is how the story ends

 

this is how the story ends

the silence at the back of the room

the respectful pause

the breath before the sudden freedom

the pull before the last binding breaks

the last look around at the

world you thought you couldn’t live without

memories that dissolve like dust

a happiness that fills you

unexpectedly when you realize this

the dropping away

the shedding of your fears

the realization of how little you actually need

the rise of your heart

 

 *****************************************************************************

Cher Bibler is the author of one book of poetry, California, California. She has worked as editor of Amanda Blue, a poetry magazine, and co-editor of a literary magazine, the Wastelands Review. She was a fiction reader for the Mid American Review and worked as poetry editor for the Heartlands Review. She was a book reviewer for Literary Zoo.

She was a founding member of the alternative band Tinfoil, as bass/rhythm guitarist, singer and songwriter. Over their career, they released 12 albums. One of their songs, People Don’t Know, will be featured in a film, Certainty, directed by Keith Mosher, due for a fall 2011 release.

Her short story, Not Waving But Drowning, was a winner in the annual NOBS competition, and her current novel, Billie, was a finalist in this year’s (2011) Faulkner competition.  Her poem, Merida, Easter, will be included in an upcoming Evergreen Review.

She now resides in Mérida, is in the process of forming a new band, and serves as editor of this publication.

 DSC_0141

 

photo by Dan Griffin

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Fiction

Angel

by Cher Bibler

 

There was an angel standing in the parking lot. The edge of her white dress was dragging on the pavement, soaking up oil. She bent forward to see herself in a rearview mirror so she could fix her hair.

A couple of teenagers stood under the streetlight, arguing. It was late and the video store was closing, but the laundromat was still open and a woman with two little kids was unloading baskets of dirty clothes from the trunk of an old Mercury. The one kid was supposed to be watching the other to make sure he didn’t wander away, but instead was staring fascinated at the angel.

“Tory!” exclaimed the mother, exasperated. “Don’t you hear a word I say? Look at Jeffie; he could’ve got run over!” Jeffie was trying door handles of cars to see if any of them would open.

Tory realized she’d let her mother down again and looked at her with large eyes.

“Well, don’t just stand there. What are you staring at? We don’t have all night.”

But Tory had never seen an angel before and was reluctant to leave. She was afraid she would never see one again, that this was her only chance, that she should memorize everything about this moment so she could refer back to it whenever she needed to.

“God damn it,” said her mother as a flutter of pink hit the ground. “Could you get that sock, Tory, sweetie? Come on, pick up the sock. Right there by my foot.”

The teenagers under the streetlight had reached a crisis. The girl tried to hit the boy in the face but he grabbed her wrist and she kicked him instead.

“I hate you,” she said. “I hate you.”

He felt a wonderful power surge through him as he restrained her. He didn’t know why she got so mad sometimes. The madder she got, the more he wanted to hold her, to make love to her, to have her love him. It didn’t make any sense. Their arguments never got anywhere.

The angel glanced at the couple and watched them for a while. She fixed her lipstick and causally sauntered over to the pair. “Do you have a cigarette?” she asked.

“Uh, sure,” said the boy, when he had gathered his composure. Teenagers get used to being anonymous, no one takes them seriously, their privacy isn’t often interrupted. He reached into his car, on the dashboard, for his cigarettes.

“Thanks,” said the angel. “You don’t know how much I needed this.” She bestowed a dazzling smile upon the couple and they began to thaw a little toward her. To prolong the conversation, she asked if there were good pizza places around, pretended that she was a stranger so they could tell her about this part of town. Their argument was soon forgotten, their anger faded.

“Lottie and I,” said the boy, “go to Napoli’s Pizza because we like it. It’s not fancy, though. You don’t dress up to go there.” He wondered as he said it if angels could dress up, if they had different kinds of clothes or did they always wear the same white dresses, but he didn’t have the nerve to ask her. He was nearly sure he could, that she wouldn’t mind telling him, the words were at the tip of his tongue, but he didn’t ask.

Lottie saw a car that looked like her mother’s and ducked. Her mother thought she was spending the night with a friend and she hated to think what would happen if her mom caught her out with Steven again. Her mother thought that Steven had a bad influence on her. As the car turned the corner she saw that it wasn’t her mother’s, that it barely even resembled her mother’s car, and Lottie was surprised to discover how quickly her heart had been beating.

Tory liked to plunge her hands into the powder laundry detergent because it felt silky, but her mother never liked to see her doing it, so she sneaked her hand in the box when her mother wasn’t looking.

A man was reading a newspaper, watching her, waiting for his dryers to get done. Tory saw him looking and her face grew red, because she thought he would tell her mother she was playing in the soap, but he smiled at her instead. She looked away and pretended she’d never seen him. She was paying so little attention to her mother that she was nearly caught. Her mother turned toward her and Tory jerked her hand out of the detergent box and showered the floor with white powder. Her mother never noticed, never even saw the soap on the floor, and Tory stood feeling the grains under her fingernails and wondered why she liked to do it so much when it got her into so much trouble.

Jeffie had found an empty laundry cart and was pushing it around, pretending he was a train.

Their mother had found someone to talk to, was leaning over a table talking about things that had happened back in high school. Tory tried to push the spilled soap powder with her foot, tried to kick it away so her mother wouldn’t see it, and found that the soap made the floor slippery and that when you got both feet on the slippery part it was almost like roller skating.

There was a tv in the Laundromat and the attendant had it turned on to an old movie and was folding clothes up while she watched it. Some people had their clothes done for them and they paid for it by the pound. The light colored clothes had that tell tale dinginess from having been washed regularly at the laundromat.

Tory’s mother liked to come in late at night because she could be sure of finding empty washers. Other times of the day it got too crowded. She actually did lots of things late at night. She always liked to take a nap right when she got off work and revive some energy for later on. Tory and Jeffie were accustomed to her schedule; in fact, they had never known things any other way.

The man with a newspaper looked at his watch and compared it with the laundromat clock, then looked idly around at the other people waiting, before going back to his story.

Lottie and Steven were sitting in the back seat of Steven’s car, kissing. They had been doing that for long enough that the windows were starting to steam up. The angel sat in the front seat filing her fingernails. She had to sit sideways because her wings made it uncomfortable to sit any other way. Cars weren’t designed with angels in mind. She always filed her nails, never cut them, so that they wouldn’t break. Steven had promised they’d go for pizza later. All that talk about the best pizza in town had made them hungry.

She glanced in the back seat and realized that Lottie and Steven would probably be glad for some privacy. She told them she was going into the Laundromat for a can of pop.

The night air seemed cool outside of the car. Cool and somehow heavy and oily from car exhaust and from factories. Her white dress was beginning to fade.

Tory had commandeered Jeffie’s cart and had talked him into climbing up in it so she could push him around.

Once they had bumped into a woman folding clothes. The woman had yelled at them and their mother had gotten upset and yelled, too, but after a minute she went back to her conversation and forgot about them and they went back to pushing the cart. The laundromat made a good obstacle course.

The pop machine was in the corner by the tv and the angel made her way over to it quietly and stood considering the selection. The Laundromat attendant, who sold Avon products on the side, was showing a sales book to a customer.

Tory brought the cart to a halt when she saw the angel in the laundromat, but under the harsh indoor lighting the angel didn’t look as glamorous as she had outdoors, and as she popped off the top of her can so she could take a drink, Tory and Jeffie returned to their game.

The angel looked at the specimens in the laundromat, wondering which one she should turn to next. Old habits are hard to break. She dropped exhausted into a chair beside the man with a newspaper and said to him, “Anything interesting?”

He looked up, took her in, said, “Not THAT interesting.”

This is so easy, thought the angel to herself. She crossed her legs, lifting her skirt a little so he could get a hint of the shapely appendages underneath, and turned on her smile.

“I haven’t been in town very long,” she said. “Could you tell me if there are any good pizza places around here?”

Art by Mel Blossom

 

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Fiction

I am never sure when

by Cher Bibler

 

My poetry has slept around, you may not want to soil your hands. You may want to keep your distance.

The first time I saw my poetry out in public, I felt weird like people were reading my diary and knew my innermost thoughts, but people don’t seem to connect me with it. It takes on a life of its own. That’s hard to get used to, but pretty much of a relief.

I am not sociable. I don’t seem to have any social skills at all. I keep aloof and nurse a passion for a married man. This passion keeps me safe from all the jerks out there. My man is so perfect they are just dust under my feet compared to him. I keep myself pure for him, but my poetry isn’t like that.

I can sit in a bar with my food and a drink and watch a poem (my poem) across the room, clinging to unknown lips. It’s very interesting to watch. I know how I intended my poems to be, but they are perceived in many different ways.

Sometimes I get jealous watching, but I console myself with the thought of my married man, who is home watching tv with his wife, where he should be, reading the newspaper with his shoes off and his feet up, maybe a dog laying beside him on the floor. Yes, a dog would work very well with him. If I were with him instead of her, I’d want a dog with us.

The poetry can always come home and tell me what it did on its night out. That way I can keep up.

The waitress and I are good friends. We both read books and we talk about that. She reads sensational steamy best seller type things. I encourage her to tell me about her books. I don’t tell her what I read. I let her think I probably read about the same stuff. She loves those books. She gets animated when she talks about them. You’re never quite sure what color her hair will be. When she wants a new look, she changes it.

The bartender doesn’t seem to approve of me, so I never talk to him.

There is a man at the pinball machine who buys and sells souls for a living. I’ve tried to keep my poetry away from him, but he pretends he doesn’t want anything to do with it, which drives my poems crazy. I am sure they are heading for a fall. My poetry is so much more vulnerable than me. They are always out looking for someone to love them.

I don’t need to do that, because I have someone.

The man at the pinball machine is talking to the waitress. She is white blonde tonight and she’s laughing at whatever he says. The bartender calls to her that her order is ready and waiting and getting cold, and when she is gone, the man gets into the rhythm of the game, his hips swaying with the movements of the machine.

During the day, he hangs around the music store, hitting on young kids who come in with guitars. They always seem to think they can trust him, which is why he’s so successful in his line of work. He is a broker for the devil and he does quite well.

The waitress has been married three times. She’s going to be a grandmother, but no one would ever suspect it. She must be only 35 or so. I told her I wouldn’t tell people, but she laughed and said she would tell them herself. She doesn’t care.

I think what a life she must have, always searching for something she never finds, some sort of dream, or a man maybe. I don’t have this problem since I have found mine.

In my room, I have a poster on the wall, torn from a magazine, of a man who looks like the man I love. Really, they could be brothers. It is an ad for a movie. His hair is a little longer, shaggier. My man is so respectable. I like that in him. Whenever I think about falling out of love or moving on, I realize that even his failings are good qualities and I can’t hate him for it. It’s better to love a perfect man who is deserving of your love, even though you will never be together, than to waste it on someone who’s not worth it. I am not that desperate for affection.

Besides, I kind of figure my man must know about my adoration (how can he not know?) and he must respect me for knowing to keep my distance. He must love me for letting his wife and family have him and not interfering with that.

I think it’s a very commendable quality.

I’m not sure why the bartender doesn’t like the look of me. Perhaps he knows about my affair with a married man and doesn’t approve. Some people are so judgmental. He seems to like my poetry just fine, however. He laughs at it. He gives it free drinks on the house.

Because of my secret, I am always humble, always know my place. I think this is a good thing. Some people are always putting on airs, they’re so difficult to be around. As soon as you get around someone who acts like the queen of sheba, you start feeling inadequate.

I have no reason to feel inadequate. I am very fulfilled. I have my poetry. I have a place of my own, and a job. I am debt free. And I have found the perfect man.

Sometimes I wonder what it would’ve been like to have found him when he was unmarried. You can’t tell. Since we fought off the attraction for so long, it was a sweet slow period of gradual growth. Our love is solid because we took it so slowly. Had we met when he was single, we might have exploited our instant attraction and not been careful enough. Love needs to be cautiously nurtured, protected, respected.

I am very lucky to have met a man who cares so much about my feelings. Not many women can boast of this.

The waitress is sitting beside a man at the bar who is telling her about his fishing trip.

The bartender is glowering at the uncleaned tables.

Two young women are sitting with one of my poems. They are studying the second stanza. The poem sits preening, soaking up the attention. I would cringe with embarrassment if anyone knew it was mine.

The man at the pinball machine orders another drink, a beer. My poem watches him out of the corner of its eye, but he ignores it. This is driving it crazy. My poetry doesn’t like to be ignored. It’s used to turning heads, to getting attention.

I am watching all this. I can see it getting drawn in farther and farther by this man’s disdain, and I’m sure it’s all an act, that he’s doing it on purpose. It won’t do any good, my trying to warn it. My poetry never listens to me. Sometimes I wonder why I ever call it mine, I forget that I am there at the inception, that it is wholly my own creation. After it’s out, it doesn’t seem like mine anymore. It leaves me far behind.

I spend so much time alone, sometimes I find myself talking to the walls. Life can be like that. I was always very shy, and I even have a job where I don’t have to deal with people. This is a mixed blessing.

I am very habitual. I come here to the same bar most every night. The only person I talk to is the waitress. I sit alone with my passion for the man I love.

You are probably thinking he may not be as great as I think, that I have created a wonderful vision in my head, that he’s only perfect because I don’t know him well enough to be aware of his faults.  That if I ever really have a chance to get close to him, reality would slap me on the face in a hurry. In a way I think this, too, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I can’t stop loving him. Rational thought doesn’t sway my heart.

Besides, the world I live in isn’t so bad. Many people would look at me and call me crazy, but I think that’s just because the way I live is so different from theirs. I’ve never met anyone yet who’s perfect.

A person who writes poetry isn’t going to be “normal”. What do you think happens to you when you write out your most private dreams and desires and they look you in the face and then go flouncing out to show themselves off to the world? Who can be normal after that?

You have no control over it then. It goes out with people you wouldn’t go near. I just sit and watch.

I sit in my private world in a bar that seems to exist in spite of me. The man is tiring of the pinball machine. He turns and gives me a long slow knowing look like he has esp or like someone’s been telling him my secrets.

This is unusual. People don’t usually look me in the eye. I’m not that kind of person. I don’t know how to react.

He picks up his half glass of beer and walks over to where I sit. I think about this and decide I can use it to my advantage. I can keep him away from my poetry.

He leans toward me and says in a beer stained voice, “You’re the only one in this room who really matters.”

My poetry watches us anxiously. The waitress is emptying ash trays.

After I think about it for a minute, I decide it’s just what I needed to hear.

 

*****************************************************************************

 

Cher Bibler is the author of one book of poetry, California, California. She has worked as editor of Amanda Blue, a poetry magazine, and co-editor of a literary magazine, the Wastelands Review. She was a fiction reader for the Mid American Review and worked as poetry editor for the Heartlands Review. She was a book reviewer for Literary Zoo.

She was a founding member of the alternative band Tinfoil, as bass/rhythm guitarist, singer and songwriter. Over their career, they released 12 albums. One of their songs, People Don’t Know, will be featured in a film, Certainty, directed by Keith Mosher, due for a fall 2011 release.

Her short story, Not Waving But Drowning, was a winner in the annual NOBS competition, and her current novel, Billie, was a finalist in this year’s (2011) Faulkner competition.  Her poem, Merida, Easter, will be included in an upcoming Evergreen Review.

She now resides in Mérida, is in the process of forming a new band, and serves as editor of this publication.

detail from a painting by Mel Blossom

Standard
Poetry

14 k gold and other poems

by Cher Bibler

14 k gold

I am losing you in the echo of

the black burnt elm

Your fever drains above me I

can hear the sigh of your

tangled lungs My kisses aren’t

effective anymore I want you

to stop it now but you can’t hear

me or if you can hear you

can’t shape the sounds into words

 

 

After Bach

  

We sit in the echo of your

unspoken words

A petal falls from the bougainvillea

a pale pink memory, a

paper party flower,

a moonclipped teardrop;

it is not what it seems.

We have too many secrets.

We are pressed under the

weight of the tears we don’t cry.

We fold this thought away

like too many others.

The threads of our secrets tangle in the glow

of our love, their edges unraveled,

their centers bound tight.

The leaves of the bougainvillea

tangle heartlike in our minds.

 

Caladium

  

I feel as though our love is hopeless,

ill timed. My desire peaking

before yours, served only by hapless

messengers, carrying

gossip from soul to soul, pollen

dusted on their feet. Your

lust too late, your reaction too

slow. This perfect world has

arranged this to protect itself

from our love, I guess, to keep

our young from overrunning the

planet, to keep our colors hot and

unfulfilled, to keep our hunger

unabated.

 

Fairy Dust

  

In this world, there is no

chance for us, we have to hold

in our feelings and pretend we

are just like the rest of them.

When my door is closed and

they can’t see me, they don’t

know what I do; they have no

idea what goes on in here.

If only I could get you here,

I could show you this

secret place; I could let

you live here a while until

their world washes out of

you and you’re clean and

whole again, but you’re afraid.

I can’t speak to you because

they’re all around, and when

I try to whisper, you back

away and pretend you’re busy.

Maybe I’ll abduct you

and prove to you there’s a better life.

Maybe I’ll capture you and

bring you home kicking and screaming.

 

(no title)

  

Certainly you didn’t intend to die;

your things were left in such disarray.

Words unspoken,

promises rumpled like an unmade bed,

truths hanging bare,

love still folded,

never taken out of the package,

unused.

 

Better in rags

  

I want Prince Charming, too,

you said and I stared at you,

surprised. Why do you always

get to be Cinderella? you

wanted to know. Because I

look best in a ball dress, I

said and you told me with

a sniff, Well I look

better in rags.

 

(no title)

  

I have it safe in my pocket;

you needn’t worry.

I’ve kept my secrets buried and

I can keep yours, too.

Winter may come and freeze my soul,

spring will thaw my heart,

but I won’t be careless and let it slip.

I love you too much for that.

 

 *****************************************************************************

 

Cher Bibler is the author of one book of poetry, California, California. She has worked as editor of Amanda Blue, a poetry magazine, and co-editor of a literary magazine, the Wastelands Review. She was a fiction reader for the Mid American Review and worked as poetry editor for the Heartlands Review. She was a book reviewer for Literary Zoo.

 She was a founding member of the alternative band Tinfoil, as bass/rhythm guitarist, singer and songwriter. Over their career, they released 12 albums. One of their songs, People Don’t Know, will be featured in an indie film, Certainty, directed by Keith Mosher.

Her short story, Not Waving But Drowning, was a winner in the annual NOBS competition, and her current novel, Billie, was a finalist in last year’s (2011) Faulkner competition.  Her poem, Merida, Easter, is in the current issue of The Evergreen Review.

She resides in Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico, is in the process of forming a new band, and serves as the content editor of In Other Words: Mérida.

Art by Judith Shaw

judithshawart.com

 

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Fiction

About Nevis

by Cher Bibler

 

“Nevis,” I said, “why do you think we’ve lasted this long? I mean, there were thousands of us when we were new. I remember being in a workroom and I was just one of a sea of faces that looked all alike, or pretty much so. Why aren’t there more of us?”

We had been drinking a bit. Normally, Nevis isn’t my chosen gossip companion. However, I’ve been drinking more than usual, myself, in these unsettled times.

He grunted a bit, put down his drink and looked at me. I don’t think he normally likes me much better than I do him. He thinks I am a shallow stuck up snob, and I think of him as a drunken ne’er do well who has wasted his life away. I know he’s intelligent, but what good is intelligence if you let it sit and sour?

“I’m not very well made,” he said, after a bit of thought. “I’m composition, and composition doesn’t hold up well. I was never made to last. I was made to be a plaything for boys, who are rough on their toys to begin with. I’m a wartime toy and boys blew us up with caps trying to be realistic about a war that was brutal and beyond their understanding. Boys were using us to act out what they thought the grownups were doing.

“You,” he added, “were a pretty thing from the beginning. Meant to be dolled up and looked at. Created to be treated gently.”

“But we weren’t,” I said. “I can’t tell you the last time I met one of my own family. Sure, bisque is more durable than pressed sawdust, but bisque breaks, doesn’t it? Crumbles into bits. My body is old leather, and it’s all dark and brittle. I don’t think we were meant to last this long. I feel awfully old! I’ve outlived so many friends, and I’ve had so many owners. I can’t help feeling this is all wrong.”

“Why worry?” he said. “What is is what is. Just accept it.”

“I want to understand it,” I said. “If there’s a reason why I’m alive out of hundreds and hundreds of my sisters, I want to know what it is. I feel as though I’m meant to be doing something. As if there is some greater meaning to my life and I can almost see it but not quite, and it really bothers me. I feel horribly ancient and I miss the old ways and people who are gone, and I really miss Amelia. She was my first owner. I guess not really the first, but the first who loved me and played with me.”

“I can’t believe you were owned by anyone who didn’t love you. You’re something rather special, and always were. You were no common dime store dolly,” he said.

“No,” I agreed, not being conceited or anything, just stating a fact.

“I was high priced to begin with,” I said, “but my first owner was a little girl who had so many dolls she didn’t know what to do with them. When I was given to her, I was just thrown upon the heap. I think she was really too old for dolls when she got me. She never cared about me. One day she gave me to a maid at the house and that’s when my life really began because I was given to the maid’s niece and that was Amelia. Amelia loved me with all her heart. I was pretty much her only doll. There was an old rag thing that barely had a face. Amelia loved her, too, and would never throw her out. We used to sit together on the shelf. Hattie Sue was her name. I can’t believe I still remember it. Hattie Sue. What a long time ago that was. I wonder whatever happened to poor old Hattie Sue. She was a fright but she was jolly and not a bit jealous when I came to live with them. I would’ve been jealous, but then I’ve never been a nice person. Not really.”

“Poor little rich girl,” Nevis said, and poured me another glass of wine. Like I needed it. Nevis used to write poetry and stories, though I never read one (wouldn’t he be shocked if he could see me? scribbling down my thoughts), and I think he was very sympathetic, since he spent his time trying to imagine how other dolls felt so he could write stories about them.

I shrugged. “I don’t know,” I said. “I’ve had my share of hard times, like all of us. I’ve been lucky, but I’ve been unwanted and unloved plenty of times. My face saved me, I guess. If I weren’t so pretty I’d be out on the trash heap.”

“I was born during the war,” he said. “I belonged to a boy who grew up and became a soldier himself and died. Playing with me led him to his destiny, a grassy hill thousands of miles away from home when he was 20 years old. His sister kept me all her life to remember him by.”

We are talking World War I here. Nevis is a battered composition doll who still wears his uniform. I think it’s the only outfit he’s ever owned. He has a little tin hat and a bayonet. His uniform is a steely brown color and he has heavy boots. He is a poet who drinks to excess. My friend Tina has been in love with him for years.

Perhaps it was the wine. We were drowning in memories.

“Were you a dime store doll?” I asked. “What was your store like?”

It helps to know more about a doll’s store. We have such fond memories of our stores, perhaps because we were at our utmost beautiful, sitting there waiting to be bought and to be played with, sitting there untouched in all our glory with our hopes and dreams whole and untarnished. It’s like a golden memory. Some of us didn’t ever have much beyond the store. So many of us don’t last long. I don’t know why I get so maudlin sometimes.

“No, not a dime store, but not much of a step up. It was a wonderful store, though. A department store with anything anyone could want. A big warm friendly store with the greatest toy department. I was a Christmas doll. Under the tree and the whole bit.”

“A Christmas doll!” I exclaimed. “Oh, how lucky you are.”

He gave me a rare smile. “Lucky,” he said. “People don’t call me lucky.”

“Oh, but think of the joy you brought to your boy. I can tell he played with you. It’s written all over you.”

He laughed. “Oh yes. He certainly played with me. A soldier doll for a soldier boy. A doll to make the army and the fighting seem like a game, to lure him into death..

“Well you didn’t know that. You can’t help being a soldier doll, it’s how you were made. Did anyone ask you what you wanted to be? And you didn’t tell him to join the army, did you? He did that all on his own. And you made him happy while you had him, didn’t you? What was he like, your boy? What was his name?”

“I am named after him. He was the first Nevis. His sister gave me his name after he died. He called me Bertie the bombardier, even though I was no bombardier, I was a common foot soldier. You know how kids are. They never see you for what you are.”

“Oh yes,” I agreed. “Amelia had a wonderful imagination. What did he look like?”

“Brown hair,” said Nevis. “Brown eyes. Wonderfully warm brown eyes. Always laughing. Always thinking up mischief, and I was in it up to my neck whenever I could be. It’s a wonder I’m in as good shape as I am. The only time he was tidy was when he first got dressed, and then we were in and out of whatever there was to be into. Stables, woods, attic, cellar, soccer field. It was a marvelous lifetime of sticking plaster and stolen biscuits.”

“His sister used to have a photo of the two of us together,” he added. “Had it framed and it sat on the shelf beside me. It helped me out a lot, remembering. I wish I still had that picture. It got lost somewhere along the way.”

“What got lost?” said Tina, who was just getting there and was about three drinks behind us. She had been washing her bits and pieces, she said.

“Nevis was telling me about his boy, and the picture of the two of them,” I told her. She hugged his shoulders and kissed the top of his head and settled into the stool beside him.

“Poor love,” she said.

“What about you, Tina? Where did you come from? What’s your story?” I said.

“We have been trading pasts,” said Nevis.

Tina downed one all in one gulp. She is an experienced drinker, being Nevis’s constant companion. Tina is a simple soul, following him around like a dog. He is her whole life, and she’s never wanted for anything more. I hope whatever happens to us, wherever we end up, they end up together, because I can’t picture one without the other.

She held out her empty glass towards the bartender. You perhaps cannot picture a bar in a doll’s life, and certainly it’s not anything we normally share with our human counterparts, but all sorts of establishments pop up in little unused corners of your houses. This little book of writings is an attempt to share what a doll’s life is like. Life would be quite dull if all we did was stand on shelves with metal contraptions holding us up. I may not be as reprobate as Nevis and Tina but I see nothing wrong with a drink from time to time and a sit with a good friend to get the gossip.

Perhaps this night I had drunk more than usual.

“You already know all about me,” said Tina. “I have no secrets. I was born a bed doll and never belonged to a child at all. I’ve smoked and drunk since I was born. I’ve danced and laughed and never had a care in the world. I’m no beauty and I was born with this cigarette hanging out of my mouth. My old wig fell off and my dress was so cheap it fell apart in shreds. This is new hair (not very new anymore, I guess) and this crazy polkadot dress is a remake. Even my face is painted over. I was born cynical. What can I say?”

She laughed her husky laugh and sipped at drink #2. I sat and thought of the infinite sadness of having never been loved by a child. I was glad I was me and that it was Tina who was Tina.

I am especially glad I wasn’t born with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth.

 

*****************************************************************************

Cher Bibler is the author of one book of poetry, California, California. She has worked as editor of Amanda Blue, a poetry magazine, and co-editor of a literary magazine, the Wastelands Review. She was a fiction reader for the Mid American Reviewand worked as poetry editor for the Heartlands Review. She was a book reviewer for Literary Zoo. 

She was a founding member of the alternative band Tinfoil, as bass/rhythm guitarist, singer and songwriter. Over their career, they released 12 albums. One of their songs, People Don’t Know, will be featured in an indie film, Certainty, directed by Keith Mosher.

Her short story, Not Waving But Drowning, was a winner in the annual NOBS competition, and her current novel, Billie, was a finalist in this year’s (2011) Faulkner competition.  Her poetry has appeared in such publications as This Side of Paradise andThe Evergreen Review.

She resides in Mérida, Mexico, is in the process of forming a new band, and serves as the content editor of In Other Words: Merida.

Eleanor Bennett

 

Standard
Fiction

The five year game

by Cher Bibler

 

You sit and watch as she thoughtfully chews.

“In 5 years,” she announces, finally, “she” (meaning the waitress who waited on you) “will have 2 kids and be divorced.”

You laugh. She holds up her hand, she isn’t finished, “She will bleach her hair blonde but she’ll do it herself and the color won’t be even. Lighter here, darker there. You know.”

You nod your head.

“She is trying to stay young and vital. Attract the guys. She will meet a guy at a bar who will seem really cool, answer to her dreams, but he’ll turn out to have a record, he will occasionally beat the crap out of her, but by the time she finds this out, she’s too in love with him to turn back, so instead she sets out to rehabilitate him. She thinks love will be enough.”

“And is it?” you ask.

“Of course not. She gradually begins thinking she deserves it, that she’s not worth anything more than this, when he beats her up, and it goes on and on until the day he flips out and starts beating on the kids and she blasts his brains out with a shotgun and spends the rest of her life in prison.”

“Oh my,” you say. “What about the kids?”

“They get raised by her mother.”

You both study the waitress, considering. The waitress sees you watching and comes to ask if you need anything. You are embarrassed and ask for more coffee. When she turns around to go get it, your eyes meet Kell’s and you both burst out laughing. The waitress isn’t far enough away and turns to see what you’re laughing at and you look away quickly and try to pretend it’s something else. She looks confused and you feel guilty, but Kell says, “Her name is Meranda. With an e. On her name tag. They want to fit in with a normal name for the kid, but they want to make it individual, so they change a letter. You know?”

She says the name again, emphasizing the first syllable, pronouncing an exaggerated short e sound, and you laugh at her.

“And what about the woman over there?” you say, nodding towards another table.

“Hmm.” Kell studies her. She narrows her eyes and her mouth twists in concentration. Finally she says, “She’s just come from the doctor. She hasn’t felt well in ages, but she can’t quite put her finger on what’s not right. Her doctor only half believes her, thinks she’s a hypochondriac, but she has good insurance so he’s happy to send her for all sorts of tests. Eventually they will discover that she’s had a tumor growing inside her for many years (that’s why she’s so oddly shaped) and now it’s big enough to press against vital organs and cause problems. By the time they discover this, however, it will be too late, and although they try to operate, she doesn’t make it and her legacy will be that she was living all this time with this 75 pound tumor hiding inside her that nobody knew about.”

“Wow,” you say, and you are actually wondering if the woman is better off not knowing, living her life blissfully unaware of her dire fate, when you realize that this is just a silly game and none of it’s true.

You shake your head. You smile at Kell. “You are impossible,” you say.

She shrugs her shoulders. “It’s a gift.”

You look around the restaurant for more victims. “How about that couple over there?”

Kell has to turn around to see them. She stays twisted in her seat watching them and they notice and wonder if she is someone they know. They can’t place her. They feel uncomfortable. Kell keeps staring, oblivious.

“Strangers,” she says, “they are checking the place out. Casing the joint.”

“They want to rob the restaurant”

“No, silly. They’re just eating lunch, like everyone else. They came into town this morning and they checked out the bank and now they’re wondering if it’s worth it. They’ve seen how run down Gypsy Hollow is. They will move on. They will get in their car and drive off and not look back.”

“And five years from now? Prison?”

“No. They’ll get away with it. They’ll make that one big haul and set themselves up in the Caribbean somewhere, laying on the beach and sipping Mai Tais for the rest of their days.”

“Oh, really?” You watch the couple in amusement. “Mai Tais?”

Kell nods her head soberly.

“What exactly is a Mai Tai?” you ask.

“I don’t really know,” Kell says. “I think it’s one of those umbrella drinks. I have absolutely no idea, but they definitely look like a Mai Tai couple.”

“Or,” you say, “that bank robbery could go wrong. The wife turns on the husband and goes state’s evidence, he gets put away, she goes into the witness protection program and is never heard from again. He gets off early for good behavior and meets our waitress – what’s her name? Melinda? – in a bar, but has this unfortunate habit of beating her up until that fateful day when she goes after him with a shotgun…”

Kell rolls her eyes and stops you dead. “Mai Tais. Trust me.” She shakes her head at you. “And it’s Meranda. With an e. Not Melinda.”

“Meranda,” you repeat. You pause and then go on, “He doesn’t die right away. They take him to the hospital and he shares a room with the tumor lady…” you stop at the look on Kell’s face and laugh. “Do you really think that’s why she’s got such an oddly shaped stomach?”

Kell shrugs. “She could be pregnant with an alien baby. You never know.”

“She went into a bar and met an alien and they had sex? She doesn’t look the type.”

“No, she’d be the driving down a country road in the middle of the night and gets abducted type.”

“Artificially inseminated, I’d think.”

“Have to be. Even aliens have standards.”

“I’m getting an idea for a song here.”

Kell laughs. “Even aliens have standards?”

“Baby, baby, you’re my alien child.”

“Don’t look now, but your Hemingway is showing.”

“I was thinking more Ramones. Punk. Loud guitars, you know?”

“Right.”

You smile again. You can’t remember the last time you laughed so much. You suddenly realize you are happy.

She shakes her head like you are the most ridiculous thing she’s ever seen.

You suddenly realize you are in love. You don’t know how it happened, when it started, but you are definitely there. Uh oh, you think. This wasn’t in the plan. You wonder if it’s reversible.

“What?” Kell says.

“What what?” you say.

“What are you thinking about all of a sudden?”

You shouldn’t. You really shouldn’t. But you do. Your mouth opens. Words come out. “I am thinking about us,” you say. “I am thinking about us in 5 minutes. 5 hours. 5 days. 5 weeks. 5 months.”

“Yeah?” she says. She is startled, you know her well enough by now to know this, but she is going to bluff her way through. You know her well enough to know this, too. “So what do you see?”

“In 5 minutes,” you say, and you’re not even drunk, “I am going to kiss you, one of those big, Gone With the Wind type life changing kisses. You will see fireworks. In 5 hours…”

“I’ll be at band practice,” she inserts, checking the time on her cell phone.

“6 hours?” you say, “7?”

“Ok,” she says.

“We will drink champagne. We will look at the stars. It will be a perfect night. I will take you in my arms…”

“I think it’s supposed to rain,” she says.

“That doesn’t matter. It will be a perfect rainy night. We won’t care.”

“Stars,” she says. “There won’t be any stars if it’s rainy.”

“Oh, the stars are still there. They are just hiding behind the clouds. We’ll still be able to feel their presence.”

“Enough champagne, I suppose we will.”

“We won’t even need the champagne. We’ll drink it anyways, but we won’t need it.”

“And 5 years?”

“We still won’t need the champagne. We’ll still drink it, but what we have will be stronger than champagne.”

“We will have something that lasts 5 years?”

“Yes. We will. In 5 years, we’ll be travelling the country. I will sit in corners working on my novels while you are interviewed by Rolling Stone for their next cover story. I will be standing backstage holding your extra guitar while you play.”

She smiles at that. “Do you know how to change strings?” she says. “Can you tune?”

“I am a quick study,” you say.

She checks her cell phone for the time again. “Your 5 minutes are up,” she says.

You don’t usually kiss in public places. You generally save it for when you’re alone. You reach your hand across the table and hook it behind her neck and pull her to you.

Rules are made to be broken.

She is tentative at first. She doesn’t trust you. Or she doesn’t trust herself. One or the other. But then she decides to go for it, you can feel her relax, respond. You have asked her to give more of herself than anyone’s ever asked for before – you don’t know how you know this, but you do. She is afraid of it, but she decides what the hell? You would be afraid of it, too, if you were actually thinking about it, but you’re not. You’re just going where it takes you. You can deal with the consequences later.

(A chapter from a novel in progress.)

************************

Cher Bibler is the author of one book of poetry, California, California. She has worked as editor of Amanda Blue, a poetry magazine, and co-editor of a literary magazine, the Wastelands Review. She was a fiction reader for the Mid American Review and worked as poetry editor for the Heartlands Review. She was a book reviewer for Literary Zoo.

She was a founding member of the alternative band Tinfoil, as bass/rhythm guitarist, singer and songwriter. Over their career, they released 12 albums. One of their songs, People Don’t Know, will be featured in an indie film, Certainty, directed by Keith Mosher.

Her short story, Not Waving But Drowning, was a winner in the annual NOBS competition, and her current novel, I am never sure when, was a finalist in the 2012  Faulkner competition.  Her poetry has appeared in such publications as This Side of Paradise, Blue Hour Magazine, Poetry Pacific, Thirteen Myna Birds and The Evergreen Review, as well as the Blue Hour Anthology.

She  resides in Merida, Mexico, is supporting herself playing music, and serves as the content editor of In Other Words: Merida. You can hear some music at http://www.reverbnation.com/cherbibler

around and about painting by Eugenio Covarrubiaspainting by Eugene Covarrubias

Standard
Poetry

The street at the end of the world and other poems

by Cher Bibler

The street at the end of the world

quietly, quietly, it’s calling you
your soul throbs in spite of itself
you’ve closed your ears to the sound
but the vibrations shake your core
you find yourself looking for it even though you
swore you wouldn’t
it’s the place you can almost see when
you stumble home drunk in the
middle of the night
it’s the pool of light made by one lonely streetlight
it’s the bar on the corner where
people look hard and unforgiving
it’s the safe little house full of family that you
pass on your way
peeking in at the one window left ajar
letting the calm and peace inside escape
you watch it dissipate into the
night air you hold on to your aching
heart suddenly grown too large to handle
it’s the sound of your footsteps on the sidewalk
breaking the oily silence
it’s the memory of his skin pressed up against yours
long lazy mornings when all is
put aside it’s the shadow of a streetdog shirking
in dark corners watching warily as you
go by wondering why you’re there
why you’re disturbing his world
why you’re passing through his space

Tick Tock

Tick Tock
you will know
you will realize somehow that I’ve
tiptoed toward the door Tick Tock
you will wake up
you will realize something’s afoot
Oho! you will say What’s this?
I will grin sheepishly and say Nothing
that I was just going out for a
drink of water and hope you
don’t see my bag packed on the
floor behind me Tick Tock I will be afraid
to move afraid to breathe
you will look at me suspiciously
I will laugh at your skepticism
Who me? I will say and then
maybe you will fall back to sleep reassured
and I can make a run for it
Tick Tock

Poster child of sanity

You are the closest thing I have to
someone who loves me, so I
cling to you. You are my only hope.
You are surprised by this, you’re
not sure what I’m doing.
You like the attention, but the
intensity of it worries you a bit.
When I get angry and withdraw it,
try to move on (as I know is
best for me), you are shocked,
bereft from the loss.
This actually says more about you than
it does me, and I am not
a poster child of sanity.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Cher Bibler is the author of one book of poetry, California, California. She has worked as editor of Amanda Blue, a poetry magazine, and co-editor of a literary magazine, the Wastelands Review. She was a fiction reader for the Mid American Review and worked as poetry editor for the Heartlands Review. She was a book reviewer for Literary Zoo.

She was a founding member of the alternative band Tinfoil, as bass/rhythm guitarist, singer and songwriter. Over their career, they released 12 albums. One of their songs, People Don’t Know, will be featured in an indie film, Certainty, directed by Keith Mosher.

Her short story, Not Waving But Drowning, was a winner in the annual NOBS competition, and her current novel, I am never sure when, was a finalist in the 2012  Faulkner competition.  Her poetry has appeared in such publications as This Side of Paradise, Blue Hour Magazine, Poetry Pacific, Thirteen Myna Birds and The Evergreen Review, as well as the first Blue Hour Anthology.

She  resides in Merida, Mexico, is supporting herself playing music, and serves as the content editor of In Other Words: Merida. You can hear some music at http://www.reverbnation.com/cherbibler

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jane6

Artist: Jane Gilday

Lambertville Towpath, Blossoms

acrylic on panel

Standard
Fiction

About Irene

by Cher Bibler

 

My owner is getting old. There’s no use denying it anymore, it’s time to accept it as a fact. It’s time to start worrying about my future.

I’ve lived here many years and have been very happy. The idea of leaving my friends and starting over somewhere else is so frightening that I’ve put off thinking about it as long as I could. I can’t avoid it anymore, though, it hangs over everyone here like a dark cloud, colors everything we do.

I was having tea with my friend Rebecca a few days ago, and I guess that’s what started me off. I like Rebecca, but she’s a worrier, and she can just drive me crazy if I let her. She lives on a shelf by the kitchen, and she loves to entertain. She has a nice little nursery rhyme tea set. I suppose it’s a little juvenile, but I just love it – it reminds me of my first owner, a sweet little girl named Amelia. I find it comforting. Rebecca’s ok, too. A little persnickety, if you want to know the truth, but I overlook that.

Rebecca has easy access to all sorts of goodies, being so near the kitchen, I suppose, and she always knows what’s going on. She has myriads of relatives, all in some sort of disrepair or decline, and she worries about them all. I’ve heard so much about various cousins, I feel I know them personally. They’d be surprised, I’m sure, if they knew how much I know about them. When I finally do meet one, I have to bite my tongue to keep myself from blurting out something like, “Oh, you’re the one who broke out in hives when they restuffed you with unseasoned sawdust!” I have to wipe the smirk off my face and be polite. Sometimes that’s not so easy.

Rebecca was going on about Sasha’s illness (Sasha is our owner), and wailing about where she’ll end up and how she’ll feel if she is separated from her children. I felt a bit guilty, I guess, as I am assured a good home no matter what, but Rebecca’s future is rather doubtful. She’s so dreadfully common, you see. There’s nothing at all special about her. I, on the other hand, am rather rare and generally considered attractive. Someone always seems to want me. I sipped my tea in silence, listening to her fret about our impending upheaval.

Rebecca doesn’t have a shred of her original clothes. She’s dressed in something that’s supposed to look like it’s as old as she is, but it’s all the wrong fabric, the wrong weight. And polyester lace. Need we say more? I don’t think Rebecca ever had any really good clothes, though. Something about her, I don’t know what, but she has a certain downtrodden air.

It all left me rather depressed. I keep thinking about my friend Irene, who stood near me on a little stand by the stairway. I was (and still am) higher up, on a barrister bookcase. A lovely oak, which brings out the red highlights in my hair. Irene and I spent years and years there together until the unfortunate day when she fell and was broken, was swept away into a box and taken away somewhere. I waited for her to be glued back together and return triumphantly, but she hasn’t. Eventually they put a new doll on her stand, a reproduction. I think someone in Sasha’s doll club made her, her face paint is just awful and her eyes are set in. Her clothes are too frilly and rather garish. It’s bad enough a different doll is standing there, but a reproduction?

I don’t even speak to her. I suppose she has a name, but I call her the Usurper. There she stands in Irene’s spot, smiling just as though she belongs there. She tried to talk to me a few times, but I didn’t answer, just stared straight ahead as though she weren’t there.

I’m sure Sasha would never have put a doll like that in Irene’s place. It was her daughter that did it. The daughter is over quite often anymore. She doesn’t know very much about dolls. I suppose she was trying to be nice, filling the hole where Irene used to be, but I can’t tell you what it feels like, standing here day after day looking at the spot where my best friend used to stand and seeing her there.

If Irene doesn’t come back, which seems doubtful, I’m afraid of what will happen. She’s laying somewhere in pieces, in a box, and the rest of us will all be sold, scattered to the winds. It makes me feel fragile, myself. We all like to feel immortal, I think, but every now and then we get reminders of just how uncertain our futures are. It’s just something that I guess is always somewhere, pushed to the very back of our brains because we don’t want to think about it. How morbid we’d be, after all, if all we did was think about breaking!

But there are days you can’t help thinking of it, and on top of that, I miss Irene like anything. There is a big hole in my life where she used to be.

Irene was such a beauty and she had the most incredible wardrobe. She was German, but it’s not as though she could help that. There are a few good German dolls. It was her personality I loved. She was so wicked. We used to stand here together and point out to each other the fashion faux paus of everyone around us. Sometimes with just a knowing look and a lifted eyebrow. I know it sounds cruel and we should remember that not everyone was raised with our advantages, and that some people truly can’t afford to dress any better than they do, but oh, did we laugh! One needs a friend one can laugh with. How I miss Irene!

I hate to imply that people are stupid, but that’s the main thing I notice now that I don’t have Irene. No one has her quick wit, her intelligence. I get tired of explaining myself to other dolls, spelling things out step by step by moronic little step. A joke isn’t funny anymore after all that. You practically have to pay people to laugh.

I wonder what will happen to her clothes. She and I were about the same size, though my hips are wider. I am sure, though, she would want me to have her things. Who else but me? I was her best friend! And it’s been ages since I’ve had anything new. Irene just had the most beautiful things. She stood right there by the steps and was much fawned over (it would’ve made you positively ill, if she hadn’t been such a devil!). I suppose that made her pretty vulnerable. I’m much safer here, on top of my bookcase (and somehow I feel guilty about that, even though I had nothing to do with picking out my spot!).

I used to be so jealous of a certain velvet hat with feathers that hung down and framed her face. It seems rather petty now, however. What a beauty she was! I used to picture myself in it. It’s not as though I don’t have clothes of my own, but you just can’t seem to help wanting more. The dark green velvet would go so well with my reddish hair, though, don’t you think?

I am quite old, you know. It’s not polite to ask a girl her age, but I see no sense in having secrets here. I’m over one hundred fifty years old! I am much better made than most. Though anymore that’s not saying much. Have you seen the dolls they’re making today? It’s hard to stand here and watch as the dollmaking and dressmaking arts are forgotten. Plastic! My God! Whoever thought dolls should be made of something like that? Whoever invented it should be shot! The poor dolls. I try to remind myself that they can’t help what they’re made of, but I can’t quite bring myself to associate with them. One has to have some standards, you know.

They have quite forgotten how to make dolls today, and no one cares. One day all the dolls became plastic and no one noticed. No child stood up and said, “I refuse to play with a plastic doll!” Not one soul. It’s like they were drugged, like they were hypnotized into thinking they weren’t worth anything better.

My friend Tina just laughs at me. She says I worry too much. She says we should look ahead to all the adventures we’re yet to have. She could be right. She’s a happy-go-lucky sort of doll, though I have to wonder about her sometimes.

Tina says life is easier with a drink in your hand. Easier still with a drink in each hand. I’m not sure there’s anything between her two ears but sawdust.

Tina is in love with an absolute reprobate, a veteran of the First World War still wearing his uniform. It’s in tatters, but he doesn’t care. A little battered tin hat. He’s just a wreck. Drinks way more than is good for him. I like my glass of wine, too, but I know when to stop. He’s always three sheets to the wind, and treats Tina like a shopgirl. A common everyday sort of girl. Does she care? Oh no, matches him drink for drink most nights. Sings harmony when he’s caterwauling some off color song. Throws her arms around his derelict friends and treats them like long lost brothers.

Men are scarce around here, but one must maintain one’s dignity, don’t you think? She’s not holding up too well from all her years of racketing around. My idea of fun isn’t exactly a cup of tea with Rebecca, but I’d rather sit and listen to the woes of Rebecca’s huge, unlucky family than go whoring around with a group of patched up has-been soldiers. When exactly was that war over? Isn’t it time to move on with your life?

Though when Tina’s on her own, she’s quite a hoot. And I do get a vicarious little thrill listening to her adventures. I go out with her sometimes, but things can get a little wild for me (I thought I was fearless before I met Tina and her crew). There is nothing like a disillusioned WWI vet, the lost generation, isn’t it? Nevis is forever quoting Rupert Brooke. He’s a bit of a scholar, but you wouldn’t guess it to see him most days. You can’t help thinking if it weren’t for the war and all the drinking, he could really have done something with his life. But Tina says look ahead, don’t worry about the past. She thinks Nevis is fun; she forgives him all his black moods and nasty tempers and his vicious tongue. She says you just take him as he is. But why the world has to bow down and conform to Nevis when Nevis doesn’t show the slightest consideration for anyone else is beyond me.

If life were fair, he would’ve been the one to fall off that perch beside the stairs and not Irene. He would’ve been the one in pieces in a shoebox. Not my dear Irene.

I’ve been around a long time. I am embarrassingly old. I have lots of memories, and some days I just can’t help losing myself in them. I suppose I could drown in them, like Nevis, but I’m not like that. Sometimes I worry, sometimes I get depressed, but I always bounce back. Sometimes it takes longer than others, but I always do.

I’ve been happy here. Sasha was very good to us. I like my spot on the bookshelf; I enjoy quite a view up here, far away from the hustle and bustle. I’m glad I’m not behind a glass door; I’d be bored witless. I’m a people person, I have to get out and gadabout. I thrive on good conversation. Good conversation laced with a little good gossip, you know. I am so bad. No halo here!

Somewhere in this house, I have a whole trunkful of the loveliest things, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at me. I’m two steps up from looking like a beggar on the streets. All I need is my tin cup and pencils for sale. A patch over my eye. A pegleg. A crutch to hobble through the streets with. A ragged blanket to throw over myself at night. A heel of stale bread to nibble on.

Though, who notices when we are all in the same boat? And to be perfectly honest, most of the folks around here are two steps closer to street life than me. I flatter myself I take much better care than most. I’d certainly like a bit of pampering, but I don’t have loose arms with bits of sawdust sifting onto the floor, right through my clothes. Like some people I could name. We are a sad lot.

For the last three years, I’ve worn my faded blue silk dress. It’s in pitiable shape now, but it was lovely once, long ago when it was new. That was, oh, how many owners ago? Once I was an actual toy and belonged to a little girl. She was very careful with me, though, which must be why I’m so desirable and valuable now. I loved her very much, my Amelia. I try not to think about her much. Just keep looking ahead! She didn’t make the dress; however, it was a gift from her aunt. It was my best dress at the time and I had a little fur cape and handbag to go with it. The cape got lost ages ago. I had some blue leather boots, but they fell apart. I haven’t had a comfortable pair of shoes in eighty years! They knew how to make quality stuff back in my day. I hate to tell you how much time was spent on my lace. None of this store-bought stuff. Polyester. What is that exactly?

Once I changed my clothes on a regular basis. Once I had my hair washed and done, and my face cleaned and my makeup fixed, and all the things that are supposed to happen to a girl as a regular ritual.

I haven’t been out in the real world in a long time. A few shows before that. You may not know this but I was quite a ribbon winner in my time. It was a lot of bother to be entered into a competition, but I did so love getting out and meeting new people, mostly people I’d never see again. I would spend a few days with them and I would talk and talk and talk. And laugh. I would tell total strangers things I wouldn’t dream of telling my friends. Odd, isn’t it? Then I would be on display and a constant crowd of people came peering at me and guessing my age and all sorts of things that a girl should have the privilege of keeping to herself. Are those my original eyes? I ask you. Would you look someone right in the face and ask them if it’s their real hair? Gees! It’s as though they didn’t notice me standing there!

It’s always nice to come home and know that you were Best of Show for a weekend, that you have what it takes and that there’s no one here who can hold a candle to you. Except maybe Irene, even if she was German. There are good German dolls, you know. She was such a beauty.

A reproduction. I don’t know what Irene would say if she could see the doll they put in her place. However, if she were around to see it, we would be giggling our heads off at how funny she looks. I can’t laugh by myself, though. I look at her and think about Irene.

I suppose if I weren’t missing Irene so dreadfully, and she hadn’t moved into Irene’s place, I wouldn’t care. I mean, I wouldn’t associate with her, but I wouldn’t care. Doesn’t she know she doesn’t belong here? I’d like to think Irene is still coming back, but it’s hard to convince myself with the Usurper standing there. I picture us all falling one by one, and being replaced by ugly modern dolls. It’s chilling.

I have lived many lives. I’ve generally been happy. I’ve lived with many people I’ve been happy with. I can’t say every single minute of my life has been a joy, but I’ve been very lucky, considering I started out a toy and was owned by a child and played with (albeit carefully) and loved and never felt I deserved better. Many years I was packed away, as my child grew old and forgot about me. I laid there dreaming. It’s hard to describe; it’s hard to measure time when you’re dreaming. The world was different when I came out. I was different. I was treated differently. As a curiosity, rather, no longer a loved companion. But then, I am very vain; I enjoy being looked at, and I’ve always been prized. I am quite lucky. Good genes, you know. I am content.

Where the moon stood too close to the edge

Look at the place where the moon
used to be; there’s a hole burned
in the sky, the slick fabric
opaque and colorless there, the
dusty clouds hurrying to cover the
spot. The sun tries to rise through
a crack in the shell;
rose and magenta come spilling past us.
Worn fingers rush to mend the
tear before she sees it,
where the moon stood too close
to the edge.

 

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From the novel, About Irene, available at Amazon.

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Samuel43

Artist Samuel Barrera

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Essay

Cafe Poesia: a tribute

by Cher Bibler

 

There is a poem called (I think) Meeting of a Poetry Society. Written in the 1930s, it describes giving a password and going into a clandestine meeting, like a meeting of communists, I guess, inferring that anymore poetry is a secret society that one hides one’s membership of. The poem used to hang on the front of my fridge, the author isn’t particularly well-known, I found it in an old anthology. Most of my belongings are packed up in storage right now, awaiting the finish of a house renovation, so I spent a bit of time googling, trying to find a copy of the poem.  I am now acquainted with actual meeting times of actual poetry societies from here to Tanzania, but I’m not any wiser concerning that poem or its author.

I have been involved with poetry all my adult life, and I have gone to many clandestine meetings in secret hideouts (ie readings in coffeeshops and bookstores),  and I am proud to say (how loudly depends on who I’m with) that I belong to the great underground movement we call poetry. How did poetry get so far out of the mainstream? Or was it always out? All I know is that saying I write poetry results in lots of eye rolling and dismissals.

I have belonged to many such poetry groups in the states, but after moving to Mexico, I began to despair. I missed the camaraderie, the acceptance, the support, in a big way. Then I discovered Café Poesia.  It took me a couple weeks to feel comfortable, my spanish is so awfully, awfully bad. I would get up and read my poetry (in english) and look out at the sea of very, very yucatecan faces, politely waiting for me to finish. They would clap enthusiastically when they perceived I’d come to the end. I, in turn, listened intently to their work and tried to pick out words I could understand. Sometimes I could even maybe figure out what a poem was about. I had no way of judging whether poems were any good or not. Instead I looked at peoples’ faces when they read their poems, their intensity, their fire. And imagined what they might be saying. I got tons of ideas from this for poems of my own, I have to admit.

After awhile, we started recognizing each other on the street, we would smile and say hi. I began to feel like one of the bunch. It was a good feeling. And, yeah, lots of people spoke english, other gringos occasionally showed up, I met lots of great people from here and other places, some of my best friends came via Café Poesia. I am really sad it’s over, but I’m glad I had the 3 years of it that I did (I was a late comer).

The last night was hard. Lots of people came and it was a great send off. I read a poem I remembered reading at the very first Café Poesia I came to. I remembered it because Fer had politely said he liked it, and that stuck with me. At the very end of the night, when we were all saying goodbye for the last time, and we couldn’t say “See you next week!” things began to get a little misty.  There isn’t anything that’s going to replace Café Poesia. There are no other secret corners where we can bond and be poets together. It will be sorely missed.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Fer de la Cruz for starting Café Poesia and keeping it going for five years, and creating a space for the literary community in Merida that was like no other. We will miss it!!
(Oops, getting misty again…)

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steve s

Photo by Steve Shewchuk

 

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