Sunday, March 31, 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013

FOTO FICTION OF THE DAY


A Gift from God

Down in the bottom of the cupboard beneath the sink, way in back, a bottle of rat poison. A black and white label, faded and worn, and printed on the label: Rat Poison. Skull and crossbones. A cautionary message at the bottom in a rectangular box. Small print. Who put it there, how long ago: a mystery. The seal: unbroken. Never used.
 
In Milan, onlookers gawk. Camera-toting tourists the crew shoos away. Yet they linger. Others arrive. The breeze blows lightly. When it doesn’t a fan is positioned, plugged in, strategically aimed. Hours plod. One’s brain coagulates like a pudding in the sun. The next day: Madrid. The day after: Rome. Evenings with strangers pretending to be friends, drinking, laughing, posing. One’s feet ache and one longs for real friends, real love, a real life.
Amadeo will say anything to get what he wants. You are beautiful. A vision. An angel. Bellissima! He will make your heart melt into a puddle of fatuous egotism. But you know it. You move arms here, legs there, eyebrow up, chin atilt, lips pursed, eyes up, down, sideways, any way he wants. Amadeo gets what he wants. The hotel a blissful refuge after fourteen hours of artifice. A place to be alone. A different kind of alone. In the day: seen but unknown; in the night: unseen and unknown, lonesome.
 
In the front of the cupboard: dish detergent, scouring pads, a small red fire extinguisher (do they come in any other color? yellow perhaps?). A sheet of linoleum lines the cupboard floor, a geometrical pattern of different sized rectangles, large ones, medium ones, and small like the warning box on the bottle in the back. Lurking back there like a very rat itself, tiny sharp teeth bared. The rest of the small flat: quiet. The telly shut off for the night. Armchairs in the sitting room: empty. Framed photos on the wall: a child: different photos at different ages: a very pretty child at every age. The fridge humming almost imperceptibly in the kitchen. The sound of a person breathing: imperceptible: as good as nonexistent. The cupboard down below. The bottle way in back. The chairs, the photos, the fridge, the breathing.
 
First stop: LaGuardia. A week in Manhattan. Beneath the Queensborough Bridge. On the deck of the Staten Island Ferry. Lincoln Center. Central Park. It’s cold, very windy, crowded, loud. Next stop: LAX. A week in Los Angeles: Hollywood Boulevard. Beverly Hills. The pier at Santa Monica. Hotel rooms. Smiling, laughing, drinking. Sixteen hour days. Countless shots, pretty in all. But pretty is easy, pretty is everywhere, especially in California, Amadeo wants more than pretty and he perseveres until he gets it. Finally: Heathrow. South Tottenham. A two week holiday. The flat at the end of Hampden Road, just near Ducketts Common: a sight for sore eyes. 
 
Mad not to capitalize on such beauty, anyone would say: most did. A gift from God. University can wait, boys can wait, hubby and children and all that lot can absolutely bloody well wait. Think of the money, the travel, the glamour. Think what the money can do: for you, for your mum. Just hold still for a photo, nothing easier. Wear this, stand here, look there, smile, wink: you’re good as gold. Do it for your mum. Nothing to stop you. Daddy long gone. No other family to speak of. Do it for your mum. If not for yourself, for your mum.
 
Now it’s Berlin. Tomorrow Vienna. Amsterdam the week after. More money than a dream can hold. Travel, glamour, locals and tourists gawking: royalty come to town. Beauty as they’ve never seen but only dreamt of, an ethereal being breathing the rarefied air of privilege, wealth, fame, luxury. They want to stand as close as they can, breathe the same air, live the same dream. The dream into which one must be born. One cannot acquire it by work or subterfuge nor fake one’s credentials nor argue on the basis of virtues not clearly visible. But how wonderful it would be to stand in the lights, in the camera’s eye, adored, complimented, fawned over, lusted after. Paid enormous sums merely to stand, clad in the finest apparel, and smile. See how easily she does it: tilting her lovely head, fixing her eyes just to the left of the camera in a steely gaze, cheek bones in sharp relief, earrings dangling, skirt fluttering, shapely calves flexed, and do what must come so easily: smile. With nothing in her adorable little head but the thought of a dimly lit kitchen in a small flat in South Tottenham, a cupboard door standing ajar beneath the sink, a bottle with a black and white label standing on the kitchen table, the sound of a humming fridge and no other sound at all, neither the telly nor the sound of a person breathing. A small flat with nobody in it and no reason ever to return to Hampden Road.
 
Just stand, tip your head, and smile. Nothing easier.
 

D.E. Sievers

POEM OF THE DAY


PAINTING OF THE DAY

by Cinzia Pellin

Friday, March 29, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

FOTO-FICTION OF THE DAY


Carousel
 
There were three sisters in my childhood home.  A recipe for jealousy and internecine rivalries, you say?  For countless instances of quiet or clamorous contempt?  For secrecy and duplicity and festering resentments, for cleverly laid deceptions, insidious cabals, simmering contentiousness associated with the perpetual vying for attention, affection and favor from those within the home and without?  Yes, undoubtedly a recipe for all those things and more.  No fictitiously happy March sisters here, I’m afraid.  No factually blitheful Bronte sisters penning elegant prose and verse in perfect harmony beneath a common roof.  Though I tend to question that alleged harmony, and the March sisters certainly weathered days of discord.
The oldest was Magda, who received the lion’s share of attention, largely due to a personality that would seize it when she wasn’t getting it.  She was outsize even as a little girl, Magda was.  She was loud and demanding, cantankerous when she didn’t get her way, vain and boastful and bullying and possessing of all the unpleasant qualities you tend not to wish for, but rather to despise, in an older sister.
The youngest was Jane who, by virtue of being the baby of the family,  received whatever attention was left after Magda had taken her share.  Jane’s approach to getting what she wanted, what she needed, consisted of staging a pity party to which she invited others with her pouting, her sulks, the crocodile tears issuing from those big sad limpid eyes.  Jane tended to lurk in hallways and behind closet doors in order to obtain intelligence she could later use to advantage.  A clever tactician, was Jane.
The middle child was Yvonne, who functioned as a kind of buffer between Magda and Jane.  As a witness to sins committed or not committed, as an arbitrator in domestic disputes, and as a diplomat to forge a ceasefire and precarious peace in times of war.  Yvonne’s was the calm voice of reason, and as such, tended to go ignored and unheard.  Her voice frequently suffered an unacknowledged death by drowning amid the boisterous boasts of Magda and the plaintive supplications of Jane. Yvonne was the child unseen, unheard, and sadly, unknown.
The three sisters at length grew up into women.   One became a successful business professional who ran her own company, amassed great wealth, graced the covers of success-oriented journals, and died suddenly of a heart attack before the age of fifty.  The second married young, became a loving but harried mother of four, and lived a dull and thankless life of meek subservience to her brutish and self-centered husband until he died in his sixties, leaving her penniless.  The third sister traveled the world, enjoying a succession of passionate love affairs with men who treated her like a queen; she became a prolific writer and artist who wrote stories and painted pictures wherever she went, selling or trading them for enough to meet her needs; she swam in the ocean, climbed mountains, crossed deserts, and drank deeply from a cup of life that each day, depending on where she was that day and in whose company, contained a differently flavored nectar, often sweet, sometimes strong, and rarely bitter.
Can you guess which sister was which?
Looking back at childhood photographs, I can scarcely believe these three creatures were borne of a common mother, in close succession.  And yet, there is no refuting the documentary evidence.  Three young girls growing up in the same household, reared by the same parents, exposed to the same values and standards in the same community and yet so markedly different in adulthood.  Like three hatchlings from the same clutch of eggs, one growing wings, another developing gills, and the third sprouting four legs with which to crawl upon the earth.
It made me terribly sad to learn of Magda’s death.  She was such a force of nature, so strong and capable, and while I don’t feel I really knew her very well, I did have the sense she was never truly happy or at peace.  Her goals and ambitions were larger than life, and her achievement of them didn’t seem to bring the degree of satisfaction she’d expected.  She seemed always to be fighting tooth and nail for a level of recognition and acknowledgement that never came.
Yvonne has always been the kind of person others refer to as a saint.  Which is to say she possesses the qualities of a martyr, putting everybody else’s needs above her own.  But then, even as a child she was the one who was always trying to keep everyone else happy, trying to soothe hurt feelings, quell rising tempers, and resolve misunderstandings.  Yvonne has lugged a heavy cross through life, and does so still, with her four children, even now as adults, adding to its weight rather than sharing a portion of their poor mother’s burden.
And I am Jane—had you guessed?  I still sometimes go all big-eyed and pouty to inspire sympathy, and still observe the world around me more keenly than my sisters ever did.  I like to think I don’t lurk in hallways and behind closet doors, but I do pay attention to what others are doing.  Being observant and curious, and yes, perhaps even nosy, has served me well, helped me get the kind of life I want for myself.  I depend on nobody and nobody depends on me.  I go where I please and do what I like and have enjoyed a very happy life up to now (knock wood).  I suppose I’ve been pretty lucky too, as I have always managed to get just what I want.  But then, you knew all along, didn’t you?  The baby of the family always gets her way.

D.E. Sievers

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013

FLASH FICTION OF THE DAY

Once, when I lived on the top story of a brownstone in Manhattan, there was a vent in my apartment through which all of the smells from my neighbor’s apartment would travel. Even in what appeared to be her seventies, she was a plump, rosy-cheeked woman who always had a smile for everyone. Typical of New Yorkers, we tenants only saw each other in passing, while rushing out to our various destinations and again when rushing back to our homes. Seldom did we have time to stop and chat, and I’d never had the chance to do so with my cheerful neighbor. In October, I was treated to the aroma of a baking pumpkin pie, at Thanksgiving I was visited by the smells of roasting turkey, sage and thyme infused stuffing, and apple pie. Around Christmas time, in came the mouth-watering fragrances of baked ham, gingerbread and apple cider. My neighbor must have been as diligent about cleaning up after meals as she was about preparing them, for like good houseguests, the smells never overstayed their welcome, but lingered just long enough to enjoy a pleasant visit before taking their leave. One day it occurred to me that I hadn’t encountered my neighbor in passing for a number of days; I hadn’t heard her moving around next door nor had I smelled any of her cooking. Assuming she had taken a vacation, I smiled at the thought of her on a seniors cruise in the Caribbean, her plump cheeks basking in the tropical sun and her ever-present smile warming the hearts of her travel companions. And then one morning I awakened to the smell emanating from my vent, and knew in an instant that I wouldn’t be seeing my neighbor anymore.
 
 
D.E. Sievers

PAINTING OF THE DAY

by Cinzia Pellin

Saturday, March 23, 2013

FOTO-FICTION OF THE DAY

Doppelgänger

I could always tell Sharlene everything and she would understand. She came when I was seven, three days after Christmas, in a box as tall as me, and I couldn't imagine what it was! I only knew that Mummy had thought about me enough to send a gift and that made me smile. Soon I was taking Sharlene with me wherever I went. Not that I went far. Mostly just in the garden, sauntering along the topiary paths, and out near the edge of the woods behind the house where I'd been told not to go. We sat together making up stories about impish fairies and handsome princes all the day long. Every Saturday morning I took her to visit Daddy. Sometimes the vicar came nosing around, looking down on us with his baggy mournful eyes as we sat round the grave. When he would finally leave, Sharlene and I would laugh at him and I would continue telling about Daddy and the morning he didn't wake up. I told her about Mummy too and how she always came to visit in the early winter. Then all through the year Sharlene and I would look forward to her visit.  But she didn't always come.  And sometimes she came without warning, stayed a day or two and went away again.
 
Sharlene looked a lot like me and was nearly as tall as me when she first arrived. But she wasn't as pretty as me and had only the one dress that she wore all the year round and which got awfully dirty. Too much wear and too many launderings caused it to become faded and ragged, and in a year's time Sharlene had acquired an awfully grubby appearance. She took on a forlorn look, with a sad and haunted expression in her eyes. And it seemed there was nothing I could say or do to cheer her up. It didn't even help when I let her wear some of my old clothing, some of the prettiest of the dresses that had been my favorites. There was simply no disguising the emptiness in her eyes, the gloomy shadow that darkened her face. Finally, when her appearance and demeanor had grown too disturbing for me to face any longer, I took her out very early one morning and buried her next to Daddy. I made a brilliant job of it, so that you couldn't even tell a hole had been dug. I can still remember, as I began tossing the dirt over her, how she lay there so stiff and uncaring, not batting an eye, not protesting her fate, just staring up at the sky overhead as though there were nothing anyone could say or do to make her smile ever again. She turned out quite a silly thing, Sharlene did. Whilst hurrying home before the vicar could come nosing about, I thought of how clean and happy and pretty Sharlene had been on the day when she'd first arrived, and what a shame it was, the nasty ways in which the world had changed her in so short a time, and the ghastly condition into which she had allowed herself to fall.

D.E. Sievers

2ND POEM OF THE DAY


POEM OF THE DAY


TUNE OF THE DAY

Here's a new version of a tune I wrote recently (and posted here, I think):

http://www.reverbnation.com/dougsievers/song/16678142-one-moment-at-a-time-d-sievers

POEM OF THE DAY


Friday, March 22, 2013

FOTO-FICTION OF THE DAY


Sympatico

                “She loved me,” Grundy said.  “I know she did.  She said it.”
                “I know, man,” Winston replied.  “They always say it.”
                The sun had risen ankle high in the east and from the treetops the birds had begun scolding those below.
                “She’ll be there tomorrow.  I know she will.”
                “That’s the way to be, brother.  But it is tomorrow.  You mean tonight?”
                “Tonight, tomorrow, next week, she’ll be there, man.”
                A tall thin man walking a daschund appeared, parting them like Moses and the Red Sea.
                “Fucker,” Grundy muttered.
                “My ex-boss’s wife had a dog like that.  Took it everywhere.”
                “They do that, man.”
                “I know they do.”
                Both felt off balance as they humped over the sidewalk in the already oppressive Louisiana heat, but they’d already sweated so much, every molecule of fluid drained from their exhausted bodies, they had nothing left to give.  Car horns began bleating and delivery trucks groaned and wobbled along the narrow streets.  The sibilant roar of the street cleaners rose over the French Quarter as they flushed out the refuse of the preceding day and night.
                “You got any?” said Grundy, as if struck by a wondrous inspiration.
                Winston moaned, a low-pitched drawn-out lamentation, agonized and lugubrious.
                “My back, man,” he said.
                “I know,” Grundy commisserated, “mine too.”
                “There’s one!”
                Grundy looked up and his face, slowly and warily, gave birth to a grin.
                “I know it’s open too,” he said.
                Less than a minute later, they were wedged into the narrow doorway, face-to-face with their front faces, breathing stale morning breath upon one another as they struggled to thread that tight needle, their back faces looking in opposite directions, grinding against the door jambs, and during that moment they appeared to those on the outside as a single grotesque creature—the Janus of Carondelet—as the bartender inside Hobnobber’s Variety Bar leaned on his counter, sucking a wooden match, and watched to see who would be first to reach a stool.


D. E. Sievers             

Monday, March 4, 2013

THOUGHTS ON WORLD NEWS


Reading today’s NY Times, I was treated to a medley of horrors that can only have been perpetrated and then documented by members of the human race … a neighbor who throws sulfuric acid into the face of a small child who lives next-door, scarring and blinding him; the discovery of at least 42,500 previously unknown Nazi slave labor camps, Jewish ghettos, concentration camps, POW camps, sex-slave brothels, ‘killing centers’; a web community of men fixated on writing about mutilating and literally devouring women; and Maureen Dowd’s column about writer’s Colm Toibin’s new work exploring Mary (mother of Jesus), and the idea ‘that we were somehow saved and redeemed by a crucifixion.’ Toibin observes that ‘The idea of human sacrifice is something we really have to think about, even people who are practicing Catholics, the idea of taking a single individual for the sake of any cause’ – an idea that I too have been pondering lately, along with the ritualistic consuming of bread and wine which Catholicism considers to be, not merely symbolically, but literally converted into Christ’s body and blood during the celebration of the Eucharist. While I found much of my day’s reading abhorrent, there is usually some palatable ‘redemption’ to be found somewhere, such as in this heartwarming article ('Found Our Son in the Subway'):

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/category/townies/

TUNE OF THE DAY

A recent musical meditation of mine:

http://www.reverbnation.com/dougsievers/song/16438185-impending-horror-d-sievers

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"All worthy work is open to interpretations the author did not intend. Art isn’t your pet — it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back to you."

                                                       — Joss Whedon

PAINTING OF THE DAY

by Dean McDowell

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

It is unfortunate that, as a society, we classify and assess one another on the basis of sex, age, and marital status when we have no control over the first two and the third is—let’s be frank—nobody else’s damn business. Does anyone else find such taxonomical methods wanting? Instead of such intrusive criteria, which are unrevealing and pointlessly divisive, and can only foster discrimination, w...ouldn’t it be refreshing, and a more useful measure of our citizenry, to encounter a job application or census questionnaire containing the following yes/no questions:

1. Do you notice the color of the sky each day?
2. Do you regularly tell another person or persons that you love them?
3. Do you seek opportunities to perform small (or large) acts of kindness?
4. Do you make conscious efforts to make the world a better place?
5. Do you explore and cultivate the talents you were born with?
6. Do you smile at and/or say hello to strangers?
7. Do you strive to learn something new every day?
8. Do you try to make friends with a person before judging his or her worthiness to be one?
9. Do you value and nurture your own physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual health?
10. Do you seek out, observe, and contemplate remarkable works in the arts and/or sciences?

If members of society confronted such questions on a regular basis, perhaps the world might become a kinder, happier and more beautiful place.