first 2 paragraphs of a novel-in-progress
Absinthe fantasias and the influx of sugar. Cream-clouded coffee in hand-painted porcelain. Ankles crossed on a long, shadowed porch. A rough-hewn peddler wagon turned onto the dirt-packed drive, past the glossed holly tree. She called for mother, or Nellie the maid, her head pulsing at the thought of conversing with anyone, let alone a stranger. What she has been doing at night, in her lavender-scented room, free of skirts and high-button boots, had laid her low this late morning. The beetle-wing green liquid, the flame and sugar cubes. The broadside poems, folded into satiny vanilla envelopes and the thrill of seeing Natalie’s spider script, and her own humble name, Jane, written out in gossamer cursive.
She loathed being home, the endless needlepoint and furtive glances from auburned farmhands. She missed Sunday afternoons at Cafe Sylvan and the arched doorway of Natalie’s apartment house; the smell of pomade, lamp oil and grease paint as the actors returned well after midnight. Natalie there, as her mother was long since asleep, to fix tea or a platter of cold cuts and sweet pickles for the tenants; her severe chignon softened by the day’s work, errant curls wilted along the ivory crescent of her forehead. When Natalie laughed the sound was smoke and molasses. A dark tooth appeared like the new moon in the very back of her mouth.
The Hudson is a
Shimmering double parabola on the window
Above the girl watching a mermaid teen comedy.
Upstate mansions those
Terraced boners for Frank Lloyd Wright,
Perched like male birds above the bluffs.
Not quite Hollywood’s golden hour
When train rides get epileptic
Passing trees like trigger fingers.
The brothers trill together: Pigs! Pigs! Pigs!
In powdery baby mice voices,
They talk about killing themselves.
They mean their video game selves.
But still, It’s unsettling.
Below the green luminous canopy
Lies the mycorrhizal hackers paradise
Where every single tree is a cyborg
his body folded inward as he bent, like a spider in a flame.
she could see the ghost tracks on his white fish belly
where the skin would stretch if he grew up to be a stout man.
his hands were mottled indigo from the ink of his jeans
only washed after the first year. his thighs were the same color
and she remembered the childlike oval of flesh smooth,
hairless, and high up where his junk rubbed as he skated.
he didn’t like to be reminded of that spot, brushed her hand away.
he was putting out the fire the cherry had started. her fault
and she watched silently, unhelpfully. she liked the
musty, smoldering smell. the town had banned burning
the leaves, said it was a health risk and you had to bag instead.
the ground was still damp and the fire didn’t go
anywhere though he kept mumbling and batting at it like a cat,
she thought. he had a certain way of shutting his eyes
and elongating, his spine popping like an Old West gunfight.
the sun was fuzzed behind thin clouds that didn’t look
like anything recognizable except clouds. the fire was out,
he felt sure and leaned back to relight the nub of weed. it was
a production, she gave him one of her barrettes to pinch the end
and her hair fell in a graceless clump, sticking to her forehead.
she watched him suck and burn his lip. she liked his wince,
the way his eyes snaked at the corners and she saw him old again.
he tongued his lip, hurt. there was hope. he could be a silver fox.
Everyone forgot how to ride the subway over the weekend. It only took three warm days and all the knots slackening in our shoulders as our bodies expanded into this newfound space.
Until then I had thought each book spoke of things, human or divine, that lie outside of books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they speak among themselves. In light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was the place of a long, centuries old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another. A living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or been their conveyers.
- Umberto Eco, The Name Of The Rose