Category Archives: Writers Write

Not Quite Stieglitz for 2/28/2015

Here’s the photo of the week:


A limb from an ancient Live Oak tree near our home. Photo credit to Bacon .


Prose for 2/26/2015


Prose is where I post a few paragraphs from my current work in progress.

Here’s a scene from a story I’m working on. For a short description of the novel, read the post here.

Hud pushed the start button on his camera and yelled over the fireworks. “Hey, what’s so important you’d climb a fence to burn it?” The pyrotechnics crescendoed. The crowd’s raucous behavior matched it. Their clamor was somehow feral, a continuous ear-splitting howl. He’d conducted interviews in worse situations, but not inside the continental United States. With a sharp glance over his shoulder, as if he could silence the wolves, he shrugged. “So much for the city’s no alcohol policy.”

Van Walker held a white book, ready to hurl it into fiery oblivion. She didn’t so much as grant him a sideways look. Instead, she seemed to contemplate the breeze blowing wind up Zozobra’s skirt. Hud wasn’t sure if she knew he was there at all. Her face was vacant. Flat and unfocused. It reminded him of the time he conducted an interview on death row. The Q and A had left him spooked, marking the days until a serial killer’s execution date.

He calculated risk and pushed conversation, pitching words over booms and whoops. “You didn’t answer my question.”

Without looking at him she asked, “Why are you here?”

“I’m Hudson Kemper. I’m a famous reporter.” Famous was meant to be ironic. He wished he was a little less famous at the moment. He’d like to be blending into a crowd almost anywhere but here.

The line worked. She rewarded him with eye contact and brandished the album. “In that case what does it look like?”

“A wedding album.”

Without passion, she touched her index finger to the tip of her nose, “Like charades.”

“Why climb a fence to burn it?” He held the camera at his waist, lens tipped up. This was going to be terrific footage.

“I didn’t climb the fence.”

He glanced down at the camera’s LCD screen, reframing her face in the center. “You tried to.”

“I didn’t. If I wanted to climb the fence I’d have climbed all the way up and slung myself over.” She stopped abruptly and turned to Zozobra.

He inched closer and waited, invading her personal space with pointed silence.

“Do you mind? I’d like a moment here.” She shook her shoulders, an effort to make him back off. Her nervous energy sparked his baser instincts.

“Fill that moment for me. My editor says I have to talk to a real celebrant I’m already in trouble for making things up.” She wasn’t bad looking—lean, but a nice body in baggy clothes. Hair like sunlight. Brown eyes. She also looked weathered. Not old exactly, but worn and more-than-a-little out there. Only in Santa Fe would he use those words to describe a beautiful woman.

He lost himself evaluating her. The toss caught him by surprise. She landed the album under the hem of Zozobra’s dress precisely with the eruption of the fire cannon, pivoted, and walked away without another word. He wasn’t getting a quote or anything else here. He had video of a potential serial killer throwing her wedding pictures at the feet of a giant boogeyman. Captivating as it sounded, it wasn’t enough.

Broken Pottery

Broken Pottery

I owned a set of three decorative pots. My mother bought them in the Rio Grande Valley where my parents lived every winter, after retirement and before my mother became too sick to travel. The pottery hung on our family room wall until last week.

Cherry, my mother’s namesake, plugged her iPhone into a wall outlet; the cord tangled; the sconce above her head tumbled, and the smallest of the three fell and shattered.

When it happened, I felt like I used to feel when I crashed my bike. My mother’s been dead for thirteen years, but she’s in my thoughts all the time. Though, she occupies only a sliver of Cherry’s memory, most of it reinforced by snapshots.

I caught my daughter holding her breath, afraid to exhale.

I braced myself. Then, as if I were sprawled over the asphalt in front of my girlhood home, I stood up and checked the knees and elbows of my subconscious. No scrapes or bruises.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like the pottery anymore, or appreciate my mom, or her memory. I felt something, different. I said, “It’s okay. Now, I can hang something else here.”

Cherry finally exhaled.

I said, “There’s glass on the floor. Put your shoes on.”

That’s the second most common thing mothers say. The first is the warning, “You’re going to put an eye out,” and the third is the reminder, “Drink your milk.”

I swept up the pieces.

I’m looking for something new to hang in that spot.

Madonna Crosses

feb 22,2

I took the photo last week in Sam Moon, a supermarket-sized emporium of fashion accessories. I wasn’t surprised the store carried crosses, but I was overwhelmed by the row of big, honking sparklers. Madonna should be so proud.

The pop icon, not the Virgin.

When the singer released “Like a Prayer” in 1989, she lost a lucrative advertising deal. Pole dancing with religious iconography was too controversial for the makers of Pepsi Cola. Today, an entire aisle of emblems in a store that caters to tweens and teens says more about style than theology. What changed?

In the 70s, I wore shoes printed like the American flag. I, too, had my haters. I had to leave my red-fringed, star-on-the-toe moccasins at the door outside my girlfriend’s house. Her dad said they were unpatriotic. I was fourteen. I wasn’t making a statement. I just thought they were cool. I wonder how he’d feel now about co-opting the American flag for a lapel pin? Are pins patriotic? Shoes, not so much?

For that matter, why is a dainty gold cross an acceptable baptismal gift, when the same symbol on a rock star wasn’t wholesome enough to sell soda? Is it a matter of degree? Early Christians rejected the cross altogether because they associated it with a gruesome way to die.

It’s a good thing to use art to question authority, but what happens when a controversial idea goes mainstream? Is there a statute of limitations on behavior calculated to shock? I found “Like a Prayer” on YouTube. Madonna’s writhing seems tame, now. And maybe a little embarrassing. Try watching it without the sound.


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